The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a Senate Republican and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), aligned super PAC is preparing to possibly end up interrupting Republican Senate primaries and potentially challenge endorsements from former President Donald Trump in search for “viable candidates to reclaim the Senate,” according to a report.
This past weekend, Trump, endorsed Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) while speaking at the North Carolina Republican Party convention Saturday. Trump did this as Lara Trump announced she would not be running for Senate to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). Budd is running for that very Senate seat.
The Axios report noted that Trump and McConnell were allies, who have since “parted ways over the former president’s challenge to the 2020 election results and his speech stoking the Jan. 6 insurrection.” Even though Trump and GOP strategists might agree on a candidate, the report added that the Leadership Fund “also is making clear it will make its own, independent assessment.”
Jack Pandol, the Leadership Fund’s communications director, had told Axios, “As has long been SLF’s policy, we reserve the right to intervene in cases where a candidate is a clear threat to lose a seat in a general election and to protect our Republican incumbents.”
Currently, the Senate is split evenly (50-50), though the vice president can break a tie. Candidate selection has always been critical, but next year will show more importance as the Senate majority is at a higher stake. For McConnell, regaining control “would allow him to regain control of the Senate agenda,” Axios said.
The Axios report continued that the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), “has indicated it won’t intervene in open primaries and focus instead on softening up the likely Democratic nominee.”
Chris Hartline, the NRSC’s communications director, told Axios, “The NRSC has no interest spending any time or money attacking other Republicans.” He added, “We started Day 1 defining Democrats across the country as the ultra-liberal, big-spending, open borders radicals that they are.”
After publication, Axios updated their story to add President of the SLF Steven Law responding to their report by questioning the article’s framing. He said, “Bogus headline in search of ‘GOP civil war’ clicks.” Law added, “We are opposite the former president in exactly one race to date: Alaska, where we are for the incumbent (as is the NRSC).”
Trump released a statement Monday afternoon, reaffirming his vow to campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) saying, she “will be met very harshly by the Alaska voters in 15 months.” He added that she is the “best friend Washington Democrats ever had.”
The NRSC did take an interventionist approach in Kansas in 2020 and helped guide their preferred candidate, now-Sen. Roger Marshall, through a winding primary.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also has long taken an interventionist approach and refuses to apologize for trying to clear the field in favor of its favored candidates.
Trump’s endorsement of Budd has yet to clear the field of the other two candidates in North Carolina, according to the report.