Hill GOP leaders at the crossroads: McConnell dumps Trump, while McCarthy embraces

As McConnell's favorability rating tanks, Trump rebounds among GOP voters.

Published: February 17, 2021 4:16pm

Updated: February 18, 2021 11:08am

As Congress moves on from the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has distanced himself from Trump while House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has taken a different approach. 

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial that wrapped up on Saturday but he blasted the former president in a Senate floor speech immediately after the final vote took place.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run; still liable for everything he did while he was in office. He did not get away with anything — yet," McConnell said. "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation, and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one."

Trump slammed McConnell in a statement on Tuesday, saying that the GOP won't win again with McConnell as its leader in the Senate and encouraged GOP senators to break ties with him.

"Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again," Trump said. "He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our country. Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership."

Although McCarthy said in January that Trump "bears responsibility" for the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, he ultimately voted against impeaching Trump. He later met with Trump in Florida and put out a statement after the meeting embracing Trump as a leader in the Republican Party's future. McCarthy said Trump "committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022."

He added that a "united conservative movement will strengthen the bonds of our citizens and uphold the freedoms our country was founded on."

A recent Politico/Morning Consult post-impeachment trial poll shows Trump remains popular in the party. In the survery, 59% of Republicans said Trump should play a "major role" in the GOP in the future. After a dip in the week following the Capitol breach, Republican support for Trump has rebounded to pre-Jan. 6 levels. In the poll's hypothetical matchup for the GOP 2024 presidential nomination, Trump leads the pack with 54% support, far ahead of Mike Pence in second place with 12%.

A separate Morning Consult survey, meanwhile, shows McConnell's poll numbers sinking among GOP voters. According to the poll, McConnell "saw the largest decline in his approval rating among GOP voters" when compared to other Republican senators, tumbling 29 points to 41%.

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