Kevin Nicholson, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, frequently casts himself as an outsider who wouldn’t be part of the political class in Washington, D.C.
That stance has helped the first-time candidate draw endorsements from national conservative organizations.
So, a key question for voters in the Aug. 14, 2018 GOP primary in Wisconsin is: Where does Nicholson stand on keeping McConnell as the majority leader?
As it turns out, the answer is: For, against and somewhere in between.
To address the question, we turn to our Flip-O-Meter, which rates a person’s consistency on an issue.
Early in the campaign, Nicholson was okay with McConnell.
He told Politico in September 2017: "I have no issues voting for Mitch McConnell."
But by October 2017, Nicholson favored replacing him.
A Nicholson campaign spokesman told the Associated Press the original Nicholson comment had come before the Senate failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying: "Kevin has made it clear he’s prepared to support new leadership because of the Senate’s failure to pass a conservative agenda." The same comment about supporting new leadership was reported by the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.
A similar report appeared the same month in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper stated that Nicholson opposes McConnell, with the campaign spokesman reiterating: "Kevin has made it clear he’s prepared to support new leadership because of the Senate’s failure to pass a conservative agenda."
Also that month, there were two key endorsements of Nicholson, both of which cited McConnell.
The pro-Donald Trump Great America PAC, with ties to former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, endorsed Nicholson. People close to Bannon said Nicholson, when meeting with Bannon, made it clear he would oppose McConnell as Senate majority leader, the Journal Sentinel reported.
See all of our fact checks in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race.
FreedomWorks for America, a super PAC affiliated with a group that helped start the tea party movement, also endorsed Nicholson, saying Nicholson "has indicated that he would oppose Mitch McConnell’s failed leadership."
Nicholson’s shift was noted in November 2017 in a Politico article that carried the headline, "Republicans flee from McConnell in 2018 primaries." The article pointed out that Nicholson "originally said he would support McConnell, but has since won Bannon's endorsement and now supports ‘new leadership’ for Senate Republicans."
But Nicholson would shift again.
Some eight months later, on July 16, 2018, Nicholson moved to somewhere between support and opposition.
This was the exchange when Nicholson was interviewed by major Trump supporter and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who was filling in for conservative Milwaukee radio talk show host Mark Belling:
Clarke: Will you vote -- when the new leadership is chosen in the next Congress — will you support Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader?
Nicholson: I mean, that's a hypothetical; it's hard to predict, right? Like, at the end of the day, I know that who's ever in leadership -- and I'm saying this, like, transparently and honestly as I can -- if they're putting forth good ideas, I'm going to be right there with them, kicking down doors to make it happen. At the end of the day, though, if what they’re doing is foisting upon us all 2,000-plus-page omnibus bills that land on the desks of U.S. senators 48 hours before they have to be passed, with no ability to be amended, I’m going to be the first guy pushing back.
Asked about the varying statements, Nicholson campaign spokeswoman Ronica Cleary sent us an email that didn’t address Nicholson’s position on McConnell, saying in part:
"Kevin has been consistent in saying that institutions should always be open to changing leaders when they aren’t functioning properly, and he believes that the entire Senate should be subject to term limits -- including leadership. This is why he’s limited himself to two terms. Ultimately, as he said on the radio this week, he is not going to answer hypotheticals."
Nicholson has gone from supporting McConnell as majority leader, to saying he wanted new leadership to now somewhere in between, saying the question is a hypothetical.
Had we rated Nicholson’s first shift, he might have earned a Full Flop.
But at this point, for being somewhere between support and opposition on McConnell, that’s a partial change in position. We give Nicholson a Half Flip.
iHeart Radio, Mark Belling Show interview (113:00) of Kevin Nicholson, July 16, 2018
Wisconsin State Journal, "In Wisconsin's U.S. Senate GOP race, insurgent bid to oust Mitch McConnell is early flashpoint," Oct. 19, 2017
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin GOP Senate contender Kevin Nicholson wins endorsement from super PAC tied to Steve Bannon," Oct. 17, 2018
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin GOP Senate candidates Kevin Nicholson and Leah Vukmir weigh in on Mitch McConnell," Oct. 18, 2017
Associated Press, "Bannon insurgency stresses loyalty to Trump, not policy test," Nov. 24, 2017
Politico, "Republicans flee from McConnell in 2018 primaries," Nov. 25, 2017
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