Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell set two top goals for the 2012 election: a Republican takeover of the Senate and the defeat of President Barack Obama. He achieved neither.
Starting in January, he will be up against a president he tried and failed to bring down, with a Senate minority weaker by two. "We all had a bad day," said Josh Holmes, chief of staff of McConnell's personal Senate office.
While there is no sign of any immediate threat to his job as minority leader, McConnell is facing intensified criticism from the right, which has seen him for some time as too "establishment."
McConnell blocked much of Obama's agenda the past two years, including his call to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans. But some conservatives complained that he was not sufficiently hardline. They were outraged, for example, when he compromised with Obama and agreed to increase the debt limit in 2011 and extend a payroll tax cut.
McConnell is also looking over his shoulder at his own re-election prospects in Kentucky in 2014 and the possibility of a primary challenge from the right, which could limit his flexibility in negotiations over pressing tax and spending issues such as the "fiscal cliff."
To fend off a possible challenge by a candidate backed by the conservative TEA Party movement, McConnell hired Jesse Benton as his campaign manager - a political strategist with TEA Party ties.
"McConnell will be in the middle of a battle for the heart of the party," said James Thurber of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. "The Republican Party is shifting to the right under his feet. He may not survive."
Asked whether he would support McConnell for minority leader this week when Congress returns for its post-election session, conservative Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said, "I'm going to wait to hear what everyone has to say when we get back on Tuesday."
He added, "I want to see a really well-thought-out strategy about how we are going to be handling the next two years," both legislatively and politically...
President Barack Obama's decisive victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney helped Senate Democrats not only keep the chamber, but expand their majority by two, provided that newly elected Maine independent Angus King caucuses with Democrats.
Among the newly elected Republican senators are conservatives Ted Cruz of Texas, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Republicans have not controlled the Senate since 2007. They were optimistic about gaining the majority in the 100-member body in part because they had to defend only 10 seats, compared to 23 for the Democrats.
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Editor's Note: The facts are what they are. Mr. McConnell, in an atmosphere where Republicans should have been able to capture a majority in the Senate, as leader, failed to achieve that goal. But more importantly, at a time when Conservatives and Republicans need a dynamic communicator to craft and deliver a comprehensive narrative, we need someone who is a master at messaging. Mr. McConnell is not a master at messaging, nor is he dynamic. No one wants to see Mr. McConnell lose his Senate seat, but for the good of the party he should really think about passing the torch of leadership to the next generation...
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