Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday acknowledged Republicans may not win the Senate majority in the November election, citing “candidate quality.”
McConnell, speaking at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Florence, Kentucky, attempted to manage expectations for the party’s chances of gaining at least one Senate seat to win control of the evenly divided chamber.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell told reporters, according to NBC News. “Senate races are just different — they’re statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
McConnell predicted the Senate could go either way.
“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,” McConnell said.
McConnell didn’t single out any Senate candidate by name with his “candidate quality” swipe. But his comments reflect frustration within the GOP about vulnerable Republican Senate candidates with little political experience and heavy baggage — some with former President Donald Trump’s backing — now struggling in the general election campaign.
Those may include Trump-endorsed Mehmez Oz in Pennsylvania, Herchel Walker in Georgia and J.D. Vance in Ohio.
Oz, a former TV doctor and longtime New Jersey resident, is now trailing Democratic nominee John Fetterman. The Cook Political Report shifted its projection in the race from tossup to lean Democrat, according to Thursday’s Punchbowl News newsletter.
Walker faces allegations of sexual abuse from his ex-wife, Cindy DeAngelis Grossman. A clip showing Grossman discussing how Walker threatened her has been used in a political ad against him. Walker is “consistently” trailing Democratic opponent Sen. Raphael Warnock, according to Politico Playbook.
The Senate Leadership Fund, a super-PAC group with ties to McConnell, is spending $28 million in Ohio on TV and radio ads to help Vance fight off a challenge by Rep. Tim Ryan, according to Cleveland.com.
The Republican National Committee has also been calling for donations to support these candidates.
“Democrats have had a huge fundraising advantage on the Senate candidates. So, anybody listening, you have got to engage in a campaign,” chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told “Fox and Friends” earlier this month.
Democrats, who until a few weeks ago were gloomy about the party’s chances in November, are hoping President Joe Biden’s recent legislative victories will help. Biden himself is planning on hitting the campaign trail to help candidates, according to The Associated Press.