Although the congressional doctor says he can keep working and his allies downplay the episode, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s final moment of “paralysis” is causing controversy. On Wednesday, he lasted 30 seconds while reporters asked him if he planned to run again in 2026.
“If I think what?”.
“Reapply in 2026.”
He continued to stare straight ahead, his lips pursed and his hands gripping the lectern. An aide approached: “Did you hear the question, Senator?” “Apply again in 2026.” She apologized: “We need a minute.” Then he seemed to recover and briefly answered a few questions.
It already happened in July that McConnell froze in the middle of a sentence in front of the media. After a fall in March, he ended up in the hospital with a concussion that also affected his hearing. In 2019, he fell and broke his shoulder; In 2020, a reporter noticed bruises on his hands. An exact diagnosis has not been announced, his employees only said that he was feeling dizzy. “It is not uncommon after a concussion, and it can also be the result of dehydration,” concluded congressional physician Brian Monahan after “talking to McConnell and his team of neurologists” (he did not say he had examined him). . For him, “he is medically fit to continue his program.”
Mitch McConnell – cruelly nicknamed “Glitch McConnell” by Reddit users – has said in the past that he intends to remain in office until the end of his term as a Kentucky senator in early 2027 and for the remainder of 2027. He is not the oldest in this Senate, where the average age is 65. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein is 90, has been away for two months with shingles and often seems confused, but she wants to stay until 2024.
McConnell is the Republican minority leader, a delicate and demanding job. Will he continue to make it? The conservative National Review writes that his career has been “legendary” (16 years at the top, a historic record set last year), but it is time to put an end to it. And there are those who argue that a maximum age should be set for Congress; but those who should decide this are their members themselves – they are unlikely to do so.
Although none of his colleagues have officially asked for McConnell’s replacement, it is no longer taboo to talk about it: the main candidates are the “three Johns,” his most trusted men in crucial votes and in spreading the party’s message. These are Senators John Thune of South Dakota, his number two, 62 years old, who is considered the favorite; and 71-year-old John Cornyn of Texas (willing to work with Democrats on issues like gun control) and John Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon from Wyoming (the most conservative of the three, who voted against Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill).
Like McConnell, Thune sharply criticized Trump for trying to undermine the results of the 2020 vote – the Donald calls him “Mitch’s boy”, Mitch’s friend, and threatened to screw him over in the primary but failed – and Cornyn has also expressed his desire for another Republican candidate for the White House in 2024. Barrasso, on the other hand, maintains a good relationship with the former president.
All of this is happening during the race for the White House and is also on Biden’s mind, who insisted he found Mitch normal on the phone, “the person he always was.” Despite their political rivalry, they became friends in the Senate. They’re also the same age, and according to an August AP poll, 77% of voters say the octogenarian Biden is too old to run again. In 2020, voters were still convinced that his age and experience were a guarantee of stability. Now they seem to see in every faux pas and every metaphorical or real stumble (on a sandbag in June) an affirmation of his fragility.