GOP social-distances Trump amid COVID carelessness

 Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After years of holding their tongues, a few Republicans have started to separate themselves from President Trump and his possible political collapse, focusing on his carelessness with the virus.

Why it matters: A senior Republican official told me this is less about shaping this election, and more about preparing for the aftermath.

Most notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in Kentucky on Thursday: "I haven't been to the White House since August the 6th."

  • "I personally didn't feel that they were approaching the protection from this illness in the same way that I thought was appropriate for the Senate [masks and distancing] … I think we've shown that … we can function safely." Video.

Also this week, in her sole face-to-face debate, embattled Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), pressed repeatedly, wouldn't say whether she's proud of her support for Trump, CNN reported.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C), who's in one of the closest Senate races, acknowledged in an interview with WRAL TV that he erred in going without a mask at a White House reception that has been linked to a cluster of cases, including his own.

  • "It's just another experience that tells me: Even when you think you're in a safe setting, you should always wear a mask," Tillis said.

Between the lines: Some top Republicans poured cold water on the idea that there's any point in Senate Republicans trying some dramatic new distancing.

  • But Politico noted: "Trump is simply too consumed by the resident chaos all around his West Wing in the closing weeks of his own reelection campaign to carry out punitive measures against GOP disloyalists."
  • And one experienced Republican consultant told me this may only be the beginning: "There will be a lot of finger points & backstabbing in next several weeks."

The bottom line, from Hans Nichols: Most Republican consultants fear that the White House is gone — they're pinning their hopes on the Senate. The last week has only made that clearer.

Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene contributed reporting.

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