GOP pollster Frank Luntz says it may be time for McConnell to ‘pass on the torch’

A GOP pollster on Wednesday said it may be time for Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “pass on the torch” after he appeared to freeze at the podium while taking questions in Kentucky — the second time in recent weeks.

“It’s one of the problems that we have with Washington, which is that there is a time to lead and a time to pass on the torch to another generation,” pollster Frank Lutz said in an interview on “CNN Primetime.” 

“I have sympathy for him having suffered a stroke myself three and a half years ago and I know how temporarily difficult it can be,” he continued. “I also have sympathy for him as he is committed to serving the people who elected him.” 

While meeting with reporters in Covington, Ky., the senator was asked on his thoughts for running for reelection in 2026. McConnell asked the reporter twice to repeat the question and then responded “that’s a…” before freezing and looking ahead for around 30 seconds. 

As he paused, an aide approached McConnell and asked “did you hear the question, senator, running for reelection in 2026,” which he replied with a word that was inaudible. Around 30 seconds later, McConnell said “OK.”

His aide continued the gaggle, asking reporters to “please speak up.” 

A spokesperson for McConnell later said the Senate GOP leader “felt momentarily lightheaded and paused during his press conference today.” Another aide said he “feels fine,” but “as a prudential measure, the Leader will be consulting a physician prior to his next event.”

“I thought that the comments his office made were insufficient, I think they’re going to have to be more forthcoming,” Lutz said. “I do not want to cast any aspersions on senator as I do not with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the Democratic side.”

“But I understand why the public is saying about some of these people – give somebody else the chance to do the job,” he added.

The pollster was referencing an incident involving Feinstein last month, where she appeared confused during a committee roll-call vote. At 90-years-old, Feinstein is the oldest sitting senator.

The incident came just over one month after McConnell froze up during his weekly press conference in the Capitol while delivering opening statements. The GOP leader froze for nearly 20 seconds before aides escorted him down the hall toward his office.   

McConnell was hospitalized earlier this year with a concussion after falling at a private dinner on March 9 at the Waldorf Astoria.

He was discharged a few days later and went into an in-patient rehabilitation facility before returning home on March 25 to continue rehabilitation. He returned to work in the Capitol on April 17. 

After the freeze-up in July, CNN reported McConnell fell two other times this year. 

The two incidents have sparked concerns over both McConnell and Feinstein’s age, with calls from both sides of the aisle to address the issue of aging senators.

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