As Mitch McConnell Laughs Maniacally in the Background

I noted on Friday that the big strategic issue facing Republicans in the next month–whether or not to force a government shutdown over this or that conservative policy priority–was not even mentioned during the first official GOP presidential candidate debate. Subsequently, the 10-candidate Red State Gathering event that its host had just vowed would revolve around an unconditional demand for a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood veered off, like the official debate, into controversies over Donald Trump. Yes, a few candidates (e.g., Fiorina and Rubio) volunteered at Erick Erickson’s clambake they were ready for a shutdown. But it sure wasn’t the big news coming out of the weekend, and even Erickson, so ready a few days earlier to throw the GOP into the trashbin of history over Planned Parenthood, seemed to have lost his focus.

So what might have been an August congressional recess characterized by incessant hounding of Republican Members by conservative activists demanding a government shutdown may have lost its focus as well. If so, the big winner is obviously Mitch McConnell, whose vows to avoid another shutdown looked to represent a big “kick me” sign as recently as Thursday.

It would be the crowning irony of a month of ironies if Donald Trump–himself a supporter of a shutdown over Planned Parenthood–succeeded in saving the Republican Establishment’s bacon by making himself rather than the evil babykillers or the tyrannical Obamacare or the pagan anti-business clean energy regs or other conservative demons–including the RINO squish McConnell himself–the center of attention at this particular moment. We’ll know soon enough.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.