RNC chairman gears up for 'tough' battle to hold onto Senate

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Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus conceded it will be "tough" for his party to keep its majority in the Senate in the 2016 elections but voiced confidence the GOP will maintain control of both chambers of Congress. 
 
"The Senate is important. It's very critical and it's always tough to hold the Senate, but I think we're doing everything we can do to that," Priebus told host John Catsimatidis in an interview airing Sunday on “The Cats Roundtable” on New York's AM 970. 
 
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Democrats are hopeful they can take back control of the Senate, which they lost to Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections. 
 
The electoral map is tilting in the Democrats' favor. Republicans must defend 24 Senate seats, including more than a half-dozen in toss-up or Democratic-leaning states. Democrats are only defending 10 seats.
 
The demographic makeup of the electorate in presidential years is more favorable to Democrats than it is to the GOP, something Priebus seemed to acknowledge. 
 
But he said he has confidence that candidates in battleground states with diverse electorates — such as Illinois, Florida and Ohio — will be able to defeat their Democratic opponents. 
 
"Our candidates are good in the battleground states that they're in, and that's the key — having candidates that are in tune with their states and that are unique to their states so you can win in a tough environment, you win in a presidential year, which is always harder because when turnout is through the roof, it's always a little bit more unpredictable," he said. 
 
"But I expect we hold the House, hold the Senate and then it's going to be a tight race at the top of the ticket." 
 
Priebus reiterated his belief the party will settle on a presidential nominee by mid-April and avoid the possibility of fight at its convention in Cleveland next July. 
 
"I still think we'll have a nominee by mid-April," he said. "Just the way that the rules work, I think that's where we are going to be. And then we will be off to the races."
 
The massive GOP presidential field was whittled down to 13 after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dropped out last week. Some Republicans have privately worried that the large number of candidates could trigger a floor fight at the convention. 
 
But Priebus predicted more would exit the race once voters go to the polls in February and March. 
 
"We have a number of candidates. I mean, who's to say who's going to drop out or when? But obviously we're not going to have that many candidates through February and March, I think that's a safe thing for me to say," he said. 
 
The party chairman raised the possibility of adding more debates if the nomination is not settled by April. There are two debates scheduled for January, three in February and two more in March. 
 
"Now obviously if this thing goes on beyond the middle of March, end of march, we'll have to look at that and potentially add here or there but it depends how far this thing goes," said Priebus.

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