Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Sunday the Republican Party is expanding the field of Senate seats it hopes to pick up to three states President Obama won in 2012: Minnesota, New Hampshire and Colorado.
Republicans believe they could topple Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in New Hampshire, if former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) jumps in the race, but he hasn’t yet made his decision, and if he opts out, the race is likely off the map for the GOP.
McConnell’s comments indicate Brown might be closer to a bid than previously thought.
Republicans also believe Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (D) could be vulnerable, but in both of those states, the party is facing crowded, contentious primaries featuring primarily second-tier candidates.
Contentious primaries, from which weak Republican nominees emerged, helped lose the party winnable Senate seats last cycle in Missouri and Indiana.
And Republicans could face a repeat in a number of their top targets, like Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina, where the party faces crowded primaries.
But McConnell expressed confidence on Sunday that the primary fights wouldn’t interfere with the GOP's path to the Senate majority this year.
“In order to win in November, you have to have an electable candidate. And I’m very confident that in every single place where we have an opportunity for a pickup we’re going to have a very electable candidate, not just in the primary but in the general as well,” he said.
McConnell himself is facing a primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin, who has charged McConnell hasn’t been a true conservative during his time in Congress because McConnell’s voted for debt-limit increases and the financial bailout.
But McConnell said he was confident “Republican voters in Kentucky don’t believe that for a minute.”
“I was one of five U.S. senators last year that got a perfect rating from the American Conservative Union. The argument that I’m some kind of liberal is absurd, and that will be rejected by the Republican primary voters in Kentucky on May the 20th,” he said.