The Republican president launched his opening salvo against the Republican Senate majority leader on a sleepy Wednesday in August.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?” Donald Trump tweeted. Less than 24 hours later, he sent another one lamenting that McConnell “couldn’t get it done” on health care. Six hours after that, there was a third: Half chiding (“get back to work”), half encouraging (“You can do it!”). The last tweet was soon followed by a comment to reporters that if McConnell isn’t able to pass a new health care law or push through tax reform or an infrastructure plan, then it may be appropriate for journalists to ask Trump if McConnell should step aside.
As Republicans try to move forward from their stunning defeat on health care, Trump has made clear he believes the blame should be placed on the Senate, and particularly on the Senate’s Republican leader.
It’s not the first time McConnell has played the role of boogeyman within his own party. He’s starred in campaign ads for GOP primary challengers for several cycles now, portrayed as the evil puppet master hiding behind the screen, undermining a conservative agenda from within.