Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnellReuters

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday blamed the power former President Donald Trump exerted in GOP primaries for the “candidate quality” issues his party struggled with in key races, The Hill reported.

Speaking to reporters a week after Republicans lost the Senate runoff in Georgia, which expanded the Senate Democratic majority to 51 seats, McConnell said his party was hampered by weak candidates in several battleground states.

“I never said there was a red wave. I said we had a bunch of close races,” McConnell told reporters, citing the caution flags he raised in August when some Republicans were predicting big GOP gains in Congress.

“We ended up having a candidate quality [issue],” McConnell said, according to The Hill. “Look at Arizona, look at New Hampshire and a challenging situation in Georgia as well.”

McConnell noted that his affiliated super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, did intervene in two primaries in Alabama and Missouri, but he argued there was little Senate GOP leaders could do in races where Trump endorsed MAGA-style candidates or Republicans who claimed the 2020 election was stolen.

He added that some Republicans had forgotten the lessons of the 2010 and 2012 elections, when the GOP fumbled good opportunities to win races in Delaware, Indiana and Missouri because extreme or controversial Republican candidates won those years’ primaries.

“I do think we had the opportunity to relearn one more time you have to have quality candidates to win competitive senate races,” said McConnell. “We went through this in 2010, 2012.”

McConnell has been critical of Trump recently. Two weeks ago, he appeared to take aim at Trump over the former President’s decision to host rapper Kanye West and white supremacist Nick Fuentes for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

"First, let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States," he said.

McConnell did not mention Trump in his remarks and when pressed by reporters about whether he would support the former president if he wins the GOP nomination in 2024, McConnell did not respond directly.

"There is simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and that would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices," he said.

Trump later fired back, telling Fox News Digital in an interview, "Mitch is a loser for our nation and for the Republican Party who would not have been re-elected in Kentucky without my endorsement, which he begged me for because he was going down. His well-financed opponent had $93 million ready to spend when I drove him from two points down to 21 points up in a matter of days."