Mitch McConnell just went anti-anti-Trump. To keep Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., out of the Senate, the majority leader is casting the conservative as an insurgent enemy of the Trump administration.
In a new television spot, the Senate Leadership Fund — McConnell's super PAC — slams Brooks as a "career congressman" who allied with Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren to "attack Donald Trump, trying to stop him."
Ultimately, that's a smart move. And if it works, Senate leadership might just rewrite the playbook on warding off primary challengers.
Trump won Alabama by more than 500,000 votes. And the special Senate race to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become more of a courtship than an election. Whoever woos the president, whoever comes across as more pro-Trump, will stamp their ticket into the upper chamber.
To make straight the way for current Sen. Luther Strange, McConnell's Senate Leadership Fund is trying to curry favor with Trump by using Brooks' words against him. SLF spokesman Chris Pack telegraphed the strategy Monday, telling the Washington Examiner that "being anti-Trump in Alabama will hurt Mo Brooks."
And there's plenty of material.
"I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says," the commercial quotes Brooks, before noting that the cantankerous Freedom Caucus member never endorsed Trump during the general election.
But like all political messaging, that advertisement doesn't include all the context. The quote from Brooks, for instance, was from a Feb. 27th interview with MSNBC. Back then, Brooks was running point for Sen. Ted Cruz, and two days later, he became that campaign's Alabama chairman. Attacking Trump was literally his job during the GOP presidential primary.
Furthermore, while the congressman never formally endorsed Trump, Brooks encouraged his supporters to "vote for all of the Republicans on the ballot in November" after Cruz dropped out of the race.
Whether or not that sways conservative voters and the Trump White House remains to be seen. The polls remain close, and the Trump administration hasn't tipped its hand ahead of the Aug. 15 election.
Not only will the result of that contest determine the next Alabama senator, it could also determine the primary strategy of the GOP establishment because, for the first time, anti-anti-Trumpism is on the ballot.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.