Former President Donald Trump isn’t wasting any time trying to knock Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell out of his seat the next time he’s up for re-election (which won’t be until 2026), and is looking for a quality challenger to back.
But Trump certainly has his work cut out for him.
Besides being popular among most of his Republican colleagues, McConnell is now in his seventh term as a U.S. senator from Kentucky and trounced the GOP competition in the 2020 primary, coasting to victory with over 80 percent of the vote.
None of that means Trump shouldn’t try to oust him, but he needs to go about it very carefully.
To the untrained eye, McConnell looks like he should be easy to beat. He looks and acts very dry. He doesn’t thrill people. No one says “I became a Republican because of Mitch McConnell.” But boring is very much in style right now in American politics.
Nonetheless, the right candidate and strategy could beat him. Here’s what and what not to do:
1. Stop Calling McConnell’s Wife “Coco Chow.” When it comes to dishing out funny and strikingly accurate nicknames, no one does it better than Trump. “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Low-Energy Jeb,” “Crooked Hillary” and “Sleepy Joe” were blisteringly effective.
But “Coco Chow” is, as best as I can guess, a combination of WWII Nazi sympathizer Coco Chanel (who even remembers that?) and a phonetic spelling of the last name of Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife and Trump’s former secretary of transportation. Trump can continue to wonder about Chao’s ties to China, but when he calls her “Coco Chow” it magnifies an ugliness that too many independents won’t embrace.
Even if it’s not a “secret dog whistle” for anti-Asian racism, as some of Trump’s most vehement detractors insist it is, it shows indifference about offending large numbers of Chinese-Americans who have similar names.
2. Stop Backing Celebrities. When it comes to celebrities being awful choices for political office, Trump is the exception, not the rule. His 2016 victory didn’t happen because he was a celebrity — it happened despite it.
Trump struck out with Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia. Thank goodness he hasn’t suggested that the My Pillow guy run! I don’t know if he has a relationship with former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, but Simms is likable, still very much in the spotlight as a CBS sportscaster, and a born-and-bred Kentuckian. Sounds like a great formula for beating McConnell, right? Wrong.
The Kentucky Republican Party is vibrant and there are plenty of options at the state government level who may be ready for a national race. Trump should choose one of them. It wouldn’t be so hard to find someone with both experience and charisma who doesn’t have personal baggage, promote wacky conspiracy theories, or sound embarrassingly uninformed.
Quality matters. Experience matters. Gravitas matters. In 2005, when President George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, the loudest objections came not from Democrats, but from conservative Republicans who thought she was a lightweight. They didn’t much care when Bush reassured them she was on their side on the issues; they wanted a strong, eloquent, effective voice, not an amateur with good intentions.
3. Look Forward, Not Backward. In an interview Trump gave several years ago, he said something along the lines of, “I look forward. I don’t look backward. Frankly, I think it’s unhealthy to look backward.”
Trump should now take his own advice and stop talking about the 2020 election. He can continue talking about the vital need for election integrity, doing away with drop boxes, ending mail-in voting except for absentee ballots, and insisting that all votes be counted and the winner declared on the very night of the election. He can do all of that without mentioning the 2020 election.
4. Broaden the Base. Trump never got to even a 50 percent approval rating in his time as president, but he never fell very much either. His remarkably consistent approval rating is easily explainable: He always aimed to please his hard-core base.
Trump could attract far more potential voters not by changing his policies, but his delivery. Sure, some people get a kick out of hearing him say “Coco Chow,” but for exactly that reason, others won’t vote for him. If he stops saying it, he might attract some of those people, but no one in his right mind would stop supporting Trump because he doesn’t hurl enough insults.
Trump may not be the kingmaker he was a few years ago, but don’t count him out just yet. He has the talent to soar to great heights, but also the penchant to be his own worst enemy.
Following these four tips would undeniably cause Trump’s political stock to rise and, who knows, maybe get McConnell out of the Senate in the process.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.