Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) isn’t taking anything for granted as his party tries to regain control of the Senate next year.
When asked by CNN Monday whether he was confident that the GOP could take back the upper chamber after four years out of power, McConnell answered bluntly: “No, no — I’m not.”
McConnell, 81, added that he and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Steve Daines (R-Mont.) are eyeing victories in Montana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. That would give Republicans 53 seats on Jan. 3, 2025 if all other races are won by the current holding party.
McConnell’s comments came after disappointing results last year in Arizona, New Hampshire and Georgia, where Trump-backed candidates Blake Masters, Don Bolduc, and Herschel Walker lost races most pundits believed to favor the Republican side.
“We do have the possibility of screwing this up and that gets back to candidate recruitment,” McConnell said. “I think that we lost Georgia, Arizona and New Hampshire because we didn’t have competitive candidates. And Steve Daines and I are in exactly the same place — that starts with candidate quality.”
West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice recently announced he would challenge Democrat Joe Manchin for his Senate seat, but big-name Republican candidates have yet to emerge against incumbent Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (R-Ohio).
McConnell referred to hedge fund executive David McCormick as a “high-quality candidate” to take on Casey, despite McCormick losing the Keystone State’s 2022 GOP Senate primary to celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) may also face tight races in 2024, though McConnell declined to speculate further.
He also threw cold water on the likelihood that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) would entertain a run on the GOP ticket, saying: “I think that decision was made when she ended up continuing to caucus with the Democrats.”
“We would love to have had her, but we didn’t land her,” the Kentucky Republican added.
He also dismissed Democratic Rep. Colin Allred’s challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas as a “long shot.”
Democrats are defending 23 of the 34 Senate seats up for grabs in 2024, with Tester, Brown and Manchin representing states Donald Trump won in the 2020 presidential election.
Democrats and Democrat-aligned independents hold 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats after defying historical precedent to gain a seat in the midterms this past November.
The losses prompted criticism from some GOP senators, who implied Trump-backed candidates who questioned the results of the 2020 election had cost Republicans the Senate.
“Those that were most closely aligned with the past, those are the ones that underperformed,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said last November on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
Nevertheless, McConnell declined to say whether Trump endorsements would tank candidates this cycle in some states. In Montana, for instance, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) already lost a 2018 race against Tester, though that hasn’t stopped him from exploring a potential rematch.
“We don’t have an ideological litmus test,” McConnell said. “We want to win in November.”
That assessment extends to the eventual Republican presidential nominating contest, which Trump leads by a whopping 29 percentage points, according to the current RealClearPolitics polling average.
“Look, I’m going to support the nominee of our party for president, no matter who that may be,” McConnell told CNN. “Whether you are a Trump fan or a Trump opponent, I can’t imagine Trump if he’s the nominee not doing well in West Virginia, Montana and Ohio.”
Daines has already endorsed Trump for a second presidential run, along with Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Ted Budd (R-NC), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).
McConnell did not weigh in on his own future plans when asked whether he would step down following the next election. His own seat comes up in 2026.
“I thought this was not an interview about my future,” the seven-term senator said. “I thought it was an interview about the 2024 Senate elections.”
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