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Leader McConnell warns GOP voters: We need candidates 'who can win'

Leader McConnell warns GOP voters: We need candidates 'who can win'
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd FreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker MORE (R-Ky.) on Friday warned Republican voters to steer clear of nominating Tea Party candidates who can’t win in next year’s general election.

“The way you have a good election year is to nominate people who can win,” he told reporters during his final Capitol Hill press conference of 2015.

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He urged Republican primary voters to avoid the mistakes of the past, mentioning several Tea Party candidates who went down in flames in recent Senate elections.

“What we did in 2014 was we didn’t have more Christine O’Donnell’s, Sharron Angles, Richard Mourdocks or Todd Akins. The people that were nominated [last year] were electable,” he said of the last midterm cycle.  

“That will happen again in 2016. We will not nominate anybody for the United States Senate on the Republican side who’s not appealing to a general-election audience,” he added.

O’Donnell famously imploded in the 2010 Delaware Senate race when she aired a television ad in which she earnestly assured voters that she was not a witch.

Angle lost in 2010 — the Tea Party wave year — to Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs MORE (Nev.), a race that many Republicans thought was winnable. She was mocked for suggesting that soaring medical expenses could be addressed through a barter system.

Mourdock defeated longtime incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Lugar in 2012 only to lose deep-red Indiana’s Senate seat to Democratic challenger, now-Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination MORE. He stumbled by claiming pregnancy from rape is “something God intended.”

Akin squandered a likely win against Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd McCaskill outpaces GOP opponent by more than million MORE (D-Mo.) in 2012 after introducing the nation to the term “legitimate rape.”

McConnell said the same standard applies to the presidential race, reiterating a statement he made earlier in the week.

“We’d like to have a nominee who can carry purple states because unless the nominee for president can carry purple states, he’s not going to get elected,” he said.

It was a veiled shot at the GOP presidential front-runners: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Pruitt spent K flying aides to Australia to prep for later-canceled visit: report Rosenstein told Trump he is not a target of Mueller probe: report MORE, Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA DOJ denies reports judicial nominee once called illegal immigrants 'maggots' MORE and Ben Carson. 

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (R), who faces a tough race in New Hampshire, has criticized Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country as “inconsistent with the First Amendment.”

She says she will support the party’s nominee but her political team told CNN last month that the outspoken billionaire could hurt her chances if he’s the GOP standard-bearer.

McConnell has largely avoided commenting on the presidential primary, in which four Senate colleagues are competing.

He has endorsed fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (R), who helped McConnell in his 2012 reelection race against a Tea Party challenger, but otherwise has steered clear of the race in public.

McConnell did, however, attend a recent dinner hosted by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus where party power brokers discussed the prospect of a brokered presidential convention in Cleveland.

On Friday, McConnell noted the significant overlap between the presidential and Senate battleground maps.

Incumbent Republican senators are running for reelection in Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin — all potential presidential swing states. 

There are also competitive Senate races in Colorado, Florida and Nevada, all of which could go to either party in the battle for the White House.

“We have five incumbents up, four in purple states, one in a blue state. We expect to be competitive in the Nevada open seat, the Colorado seat and the Florida open seat,” McConnell said. “What do all of them except for Illinois have in common? They’re all purple.” 

The vacancy in Florida was created by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA The Hill's 12:30 Report Steps Congress can take to defend America against foreign influence operations MORE’s (R) decision to run for president, while the one in Nevada was opened up by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) announced retirement. 

“Those states are going to decide who the next president is and those states are also going to decide whether we’re still in the majority or the other guys,” he said.