Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that anti-establishment conservatives are putting Republican electoral fortunes at risk and that his unpopularity is not.
The Kentucky Republican did not utter Steve Bannon's name on "Fox News Sunday," but responding to a clip of the former White House adviser said "the element you're referring to" has been a self-destructive force.
"Some of these folks you've been quoting, as I said, are specialists at nominating people who lose, and that isn't going to help President Trump achieve his agenda," McConnell told host Dana Perino.
McConnell supported appointed Sen. Luther Strange in a special election Republican primary in September and helped pressure President Trump to endorse Strange, who lost to Bannon-backed former judge Roy Moore.
The McConnell-backed Senate Leadership Fund super PAC reportedly is not financially supporting Moore, who is in a tight race against Democrat Doug Jones.
"The kind of people who are supported by the element that you've just been referring to are specialists in defeating Republican candidates in November," McConnell said.
"That's what this inter-party skirmish is about: our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win," he said.
McConnell pushed back against a suggestion that his unpopularity among some conservatives was putting Republican fortunes at risk, as Bannon aims to recruit challengers to all incumbent Republicans except Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, with McConnell's future a key issue.
"Trying to cook up an issue like this that's irrelevant is only going to create divisions and make it more difficult for us to win in November," he said. "I don't expect any candidate in America to sort of sign up on how they may vote for the majority leader of the Senate a year and a half from now."