Mitch McConnell had a very bad year

The least popular elected official in the country—by a long way—is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The latest polling from Monmouth University shows that no elected official at the federal level is particularly popular, but McConnell excels at being disliked.

Each member of congressional leadership showed a dip in popularity since last surveyed in July by Monmouth, but “McConnell earns the lowest overall rating (6% approve and 60% disapprove among American adults), and is the only leader to receive a net negative score from his fellow partisans (10% approve and 41% disapprove among Republicans).”

It’s not just Monmouth, and it’s also not exactly news. Take a look at where McConnell has been polling for years with registered voters in Civiqs’ surveys.

He enjoyed the approval of Republicans in the Civiqs panels for the length of Donald Trump’s administration, but that ended on Jan. 6, 2021, and has never come back.

This year, particularly, has seen McConnell floundering while trying to keep hold of his conference. For example, he stood by while Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville held every flag officer and higher promotion in the military hostage for months—several hundred of them—and endangered national security in the process. That dragged on from February until December, with McConnell remaining hands off. Rank-and-file Republicans took to the floor in a public rebuke of Tuberville, but still the leader of the conference stood by.

Petty, partisan Mitch McConnell did show up, however, when he refused what turned out to be the final request from the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. She wanted to be subbed out of the Judiciary Committee temporarily while she recovered from a hospitalization. McConnell wouldn’t allow it, and she was forced to return so that the committee—which was deadlocked between Democrats and Republicans in her absence—could function. That was stress the frail senator shouldn’t have been forced to suffer.

Even that bit of partisan nastiness wasn’t enough to satisfy his restless conference and the GOP that has turned away from him. That could be because they smell blood in the water; McConnell’s health is clearly not great, and this year marked the beginning of the end of his hold on leadership. He froze up in front of cameras—twice—and was unable to finish his remarks. The clean bill of health from his doctor after those incidents was probably greeted with as much skepticism in his conference as it was at Daily Kos.

His loosening grip on power might have factored into the arguably worst thing McConnell has done all year: doing exactly what he warned fellow Republicans against and going “wobbly” on Ukraine. Until recent weeks, McConnell was as steadfast a supporter of Ukraine as President Joe Biden is, fiercely supporting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and condemning Russia’s invasion. “Now, with Ukraine bravely defending its sovereignty and eroding Russia’s capacity to threaten NATO, it is not the time to ease up.” he said in September. “Helping Ukraine retake its territory means weakening one of America’s biggest strategic adversaries without firing a shot.”

That all changed. Last week, he was with the most hard-line of the anti-Ukraine Republicans in his conference, holding Ukraine aid hostage to unrelated (as well as extreme and racist) immigration policy demands even as Zelenskyy himself traveled to D.C. to personally ask for continued help. Ukraine’s sovereignty against Russian aggression all of a sudden isn’t as critical to national security as it was back in September for McConnell.

He’s losing his grip in his conference, and his continued public disapproval coming from Republicans and particularly the MAGA crowd is a big part of that. McConnell’s new shift to MAGA world on Ukraine and immigration isn’t likely to fix any of that.


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Campaign Action

Every political junkie consumes polls, but how much do you know about focus groups? We wanted to learn more—much more—about this critical campaign tool, so we invited Margie Omero of GBAO Strategies to join us on this week’s episode of The Downballot. Omero gets into the nitty-gritty to tell us how focus groups are actually convened, the best ways to moderate them, and what participants have been saying about abortion ever since the Dobbs decision. Those views were key to understanding why last year’s red wave narrative was flawed and shed light on what we can expect in 2024.


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