- Mitch McConnell offered a sober diagnosis of his party's poor showing in this year's midterms.
- The GOP leader said he "never predicted a red wave" and "never saw that in any of our polling."
- He also said that moderate and independent voters were "frightened" by some GOP figures.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a sober diagnosis on Tuesday of his party's poor showing in this year's midterm elections, saying that some voters were "frightened" by Republicans.
He also said he never predicted a blow-out victory for Republicans, based on polling that he saw in recent months.
"We underperformed among independents and moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party, and leadership roles, is that they're dogged in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks," he told reporters at the Capitol following a closed-door caucus meeting. "And it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters."
McConnell made the comments in response to a question about a challenge he's facing from Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida — the current chairman of Senate Republicans' campaign arm — for the position of Senate Minority Leader.
McConnell's criticism implicitly targeted former President Donald Trump, who has sought the Kentucky Republicans' ouster and has encouraged Scott to challenge McConnell.
—Acyn (@Acyn) November 15, 2022
"I never predicted a red wave. We never saw that in any of our polling in the states that we were counting on to win. There was no wave," he continued. "We had a national issue set that was favorable. But as a result of our own perception, many of them had, that we were not dealing with issues in a responsible way, and we were spending too much time on negativity, and attacks and chaos. They were frightened."
McConnell then said his party's nominees were "just crushed by independent voters" in New Hampshire and Arizona, where Republicans nominated two candidates — Don Bolduc and Blake Masters, respectively — who denied the validity of the 2020 election and were perceived as extreme.
And he referenced his own comments criticizing GOP "candidate quality" in August.
"I think the lesson's pretty clear: Senate races are different," he continued. "Candidate quality — recall I said in August — is important. And in most of our states, we met that test. In a few of them, we did not."
Scott, for his part, is arguing that new leadership is needed for the party. In a letter to his Republican Senate colleagues making the case for his elevation to the top GOP post, the Florida Republican said that voters need to know what Republicans affirmatively stand for — not just what they oppose.
McConnell has balked at releasing an affirmative Republican agenda, believing it's best to make midterm elections a referendum on the party in power.