Republican senators up for reelection in 2022 do not appear eager to pick sides between former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
McConnell accused Trump of a "disgraceful dereliction of duty" and being responsible for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Still, the leader voted to acquit Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, claiming the proceedings were unconstitutional.
Trump this week released a statement in which he called McConnell "a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack."
With the former president warning he will push 2022 primary candidates to his liking, GOP senators seeking reelection were staying out of the fray.
Among 16 Republican senators up for '22 reelection contacted by CNN to find out if they still backed McConnell, only three responded by Thursday.
That did not mean McConnell was losing support, necessarily, but it is likely a sign Republicans do not want to be caught up in a fight over Trump's role in the party.
Some Republican senators agreed with McConnell's assessment of Trump, though others disagreed with the normally savvy leader's harsh words about the former president.
"It was the most uncharacteristic move for McConnell," said one source close to McConnell.
The three senators who responded to CNN directly or via staffers – Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. – all said they supported McConnell.
"No one understands the Senate better than he does," Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told CNN in a statement.
Among those who did not respond were Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., from McConnell's home state, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who had been critical of the GOP leader in recent interviews.
Others who did not respond included: Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; John Kennedy, R-La.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Murkowski was the lone Republican senator up for reelection who voted to convict Trump. Six GOP colleagues did likewise.
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