Mitch McConnell is least popular US senator while his chief whip is best liked, new survey reveals

The survey also finds Joe Manchin’s popularity soaring with Republican voters

Abe Asher
Tuesday 26 April 2022 23:28
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Mitch McConnell explains why he will still support Donald Trump

A new survey from the firm Morning Consult has found that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is once again the least popular senator in the country with just 33 per cent of Kentuckians approving of his job performance.

Just 18 per cent of Americans approving of Congress as a whole.

Mr McConnell first won election to the Senate in 1984 and has led the Senate Republicans since 2007.

His longstanding lack of popularity has yet to hurt his political fortunes at home in Kentucky. He won re-election handily in 2020, beating centrist Democrat Amy McGrath by nearly 20 percentage points. He also remains in firm control of the Republican caucus, despite facing regular criticism from Senate candidates for being insufficiently supportive of former President Donald Trump.

New York Times journalists Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin have reported in a forthcoming book that Mr McConnell was “exhilarated” by the downturn in Mr Trump’s political fortunes following the January 6 Capitol riot, but he has said that, like most leading Republicans, he will again support Mr Trump if he is the Republican nominee for president in 2024.

Mr McConnell’s lack of popularity in Kentucky stands in stark contrast with his deputy John Thune’s popularity in his home state of South Dakota, where 62 per cent of voters approve of his job performance and only 28 per cent disapprove.

That ratio makes Mr Thune the most popular senator in the country in this survey, though Vermont independent and two-time Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — who aides have stated has not ruled out a third candidacy in 2024 should Joe Biden not run — also enjoys the approval of 62 per cent of his constituents.

The most notable number in the survey, however, might be the newfound popularity of Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia — the senator who, along with Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, has been most responsible for blocking Mr Biden’s domestic policy programme.

Mr Manchin’s approval rating with voters in his state has soared 17 percentage points in the last year to 57 per cent — with those gains coming almost entirely from Republicans. Mr Manchin now has the approval of 69 per cent of Republican voters, up from 35 per cent at this time last year. Members of his own party have gone the other direction, 54 per cent of whom now disapprove of him.

Mr Manchin, who has increasingly been the object of attention of wealthy Republican donors, has said that he is running for re-election in 2024 and has no plans to switch parties. He has voted with Mr Biden 96 per cent of the time, but used his power in the evenly divided Senate to block his signature legislation on climate, education, healthcare, childcare, housing, and middle class tax relief.

Ms Sinema, who, unlike Mr Manchin, comes from a state that Mr Biden won in 2020, has not enjoyed a similar surge in popularity. Her overall approval rating has fallen by seven points in the last year and has encouraged a potential primary challenge in 2024.

The only other senators who have negative approval ratings are Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson, who is facing a re-election campaign this year with a -14 net rating, Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, who is retiring, and Maine Republican Susan Collins, who won re-election in 2020.

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, a moderate who faces challenges from both her right and left in her state’s August jungle primary, has a net zero approval rating.

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