It’s political canon that the president’s party does poorly in the Midterms — especially if it’s said president’s first term. But the Senate minority leader is tossing bits of that conventional wisdom out the window as we get closer to the general election. And it’s not even the first time Mitch McConnell has preemptively winked in the direction of things not going super well for Republicans this fall — at least when it comes to control of the Senate.
During an event in Kentucky on Thursday McConnell suggested that it was far more likely that Republicans are able to flip the House than take back the Senate. That’s because the Senate is “different.”
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” he said at a Chamber of Commerce event in his home state Thursday when asked how Republicans will fare in the Midterms (emphasis mine).
“Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly,” he added.
The candidate quality line is striking. For one, he’s been issuing warnings about the caliber of candidates running for Senate since at least April of this year — after his sad attempts to recruit some more traditional candidates (aka, not far-right and not Trumpy) to run in key Senate races failed repeatedly at the beginning of the year. He attempted to get people like Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to launch bids in their state’s respective Senate races, hoping to seize seats from Democrats. But that courting fell flat and now McConnell is seemingly stuck with people like election denier Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Blake Masters in Arizona.
His inability, as the top Republican in leadership, to recruit non-extreme candidates to run in crucial Senate races has been on display throughout much of the primary season, as one far-right, extremist candidate after another wins Republican nominations.
And it’s not just McConnell who may be quietly concerned about the electability of the current slate of non-traditional Republicans vying for Senate seats this fall. Last week the National Republican Senatorial Committee canceled millions in ad spending in some battleground states like Wisconsin and Nevada, in order to funnel more spending into the coffers of other candidates, like J.D. Vance, who have not only not raised enough themselves but who are running in states the party must hold onto this fall — like Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Perhaps McConnell is attempting to get ahead of the optics of not securing the Senate, learning lessons from the Christine O’Donnell and Todd Atkin embarrassments of 2010 and 2012. Or maybe the reality of the battle has set in. Republicans are defending 21 seats, while Democrats are defending just 14.
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