After an anticipated “red wave” of Republican wins in the House and Senate failed to materialize, members of the Republican Party are pointing fingers for the lack of voter momentum, with some conservatives advocating for a change in party leadership. Right-wing media are following suit, criticizing Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as leaders in their respective chambers.
While some races have not yet been called, Republicans are likely to win a slim majority in the House of Representatives and remain in the minority in the Senate. The party has now turned inward to figure out both what went wrong and how to move forward. While some conservative leaders were hoping to postpone them, GOP leadership elections for the House and Senate have continued this week as planned. On Wednesday, McConnell was re-elected as Senate minority leader, and McCarthy is slated to become the speaker of the House, for which he recently won the Republican nomination.
However, not all in the party are on board, leading to challenges from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). Neither the GOP nor right-wing media have coalesced around alternatives to either McConnell or McCarthy, though some party leaders and media figures alike have denounced each for their supposed contribution to midterm losses.
Right-wing media criticizing McConnell for Senate losses
- Fox host Tucker Carlson said on November 9 that “Republican leadership of the House, and the Senate, and of the RNC … should go do something else now” because they failed to get a sweeping Republican victory.
- On the November 15 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed it’s “nuts” that “Mitch McConnell put money” into the reelection campaign of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) because her main opponent was another Republican candidate. He continued, “You were going to get a Republican seat anyway. That's a friend. That should not be something he should have done. Why he pulled from [Arizona Republican Senate candidate] Blake Masters is — also seems to be illogical, if he wanted to be majority leader.”
- Appearing on the November 14 edition of Fox’s Hannity, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich praised Democrats’ midterm strategy. He contrasted their approach with “the case of [Donald] Bolduc, the candidate in New Hampshire, [in which] Mitch McConnell himself ran $4 million in ads attacking Bolduc in a way, in the primary, in a way that I think permanently made it harder for him to win.”
- On the November 14 edition of The Story, Fox News contributor Joe Concha pointed out that “there has to be accountability in these situations and a lot of people blame McConnell even though probably you should be looking at the candidates that didn't run the best races either.”
- Blaze Media’s Glenn Beck tweeted on November 14, “The midterms made it clear: Mitch McConnell has GOT TO GO. Call your Republican Senators and get it on the record whether they'll vote to keep him in power — and make it clear that you'll remember their answer come election day.”
- The next day, Blaze Media published a post titled “DITCH MITCH? Why McConnell has 'GOT TO GO,'” which supported Beck’s efforts to “to call our state's Republican senators and make it clear that if they plan to vote for Mitch, they can plan on not having your vote when the next election rolls around.”
- The Federalist called on Republicans to hold McConnell and McCarthy accountable for midterm failures rather than focusing on the potential presidential showdown between Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2024.
- Former Fox host Lou Dobbs tweeted, “Republicans must fire McConnell, McDaniel, and McCarthy: they should have won big, they lost. Only winners need apply--voters sick of RINOs. #TheGreatAmericaShow.”
Right-wing media criticizing nomination of McCarthy for House speaker
- On the November 14 edition of One America News Network's Real America with Dan Ball, host Dan Ball said, “We want to keep moving forward with this American First agenda no matter if Trump’s leading or anybody else. But we sure as heck don't want those old RINOs back and I don't think Kevin, Mitch and a lot of them understand that. Their time has come.” Guest and Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis raised questions about Republican leadership fundraising efforts, stating, “What is coming out now, when we’re seeing all of the fundraising scandals and where these PACs have spent millions and millions of dollars, is that they purposefully, it looks like, purposefully and strategically wanted to tank MAGA candidates in order to craft this narrative that ‘Trump is over and let's go back to the establishment candidates.’”
- On former Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast War Room, Christian nationalist Russell Vought expressed doubt about McCarthy’s ability to lead, saying, “I've seen him in action behind closed doors and I’ve seen the decisions that he has made, and they will not save this country.” Vought advocated for maximizing the current political moment in which “a handful of Republicans can ensure that we have a paradigm-shifting speaker that will allow us to actually have an agenda and move forward and use every opportunity that we have against Biden.” He added, “We can’t have a speaker that’s afraid of government shutdowns … [or] using the debt limit to fix our fiscal house and get it in order, … [or] using the impeachment or to protect the J6 prisoners because somehow you’re worried about the notion of being tarred as an insurrectionist.”
- Vought also tweeted on November 14, “The Biggs speaker candidacy is important bc it provides a holding pattern for the HFC to register being against McCarthy & most importantly, ensures that no member can go home and mansplain to their voters that nobody was running as an alternative. The end game plays out later.”
- In a November 14 article, Red State criticized Trump for supporting McCarthy, claiming that the latter is part of the “swamp” Trump has pledged to “drain.”
- During an Election Day livestream, Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro criticized McCarthy as “not an inspiring figure in any way, shape or form,” adding, “I don’t see how you can underperform to this extent and still hope to be seen as sort of the durable leader of the Republican Party in the House.”
Despite the negative coverage being directed toward McCarthy and McConnell, there has also been some support for both leaders from other segments of right-wing media.
National Review has acknowledged “legitimate criticisms” of McConnell but suggested that the blame should not fall solely on him. The publication even suggested that in finger-pointing at McConnell, among others, the Republicans neglect their party’s reputation for being “the party of personal responsibility,” and defended him as “clearly the canniest Republican Senate leader in memory.”
Some congressional colleagues have also offered their support, with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) arguing of McConnell that “to be the man, you got to beat the man” and that the election should be uncontested, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claiming there is no better alternative for the leadership position than McCarthy.