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 McConnellPelosi: 'Thug' Putin not welcome in Congress GOP to White House: End summit mystery Sunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight 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 ReidSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick 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 DonnellyHistory argues for Democratic Senate gains Polling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes MORE. He stumbled by claiming pregnancy from rape is “something God intended.”

Akin squandered a likely win against Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillHistory argues for Democratic Senate gains Polling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes 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 TrumpTrump warns Iran's Rouhani: Threaten us 'and you will suffer' Pompeo: Iran's leaders resemble the mafia NYT's Haberman: Trump 'often tells the truth' MORE, Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDem leaders fend off calls to impeach Trump Cruz: 'I'm glad' Disney fired James Gunn over 'horrible' tweets Washington needs to end hidden inflation tax on our capital gains MORE and Ben Carson. 

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteNew Hampshire governor signs controversial voting bill Former Arizona senator to shepherd Supreme Court nominee through confirmation process Shut the back door to America's opioid epidemic 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 PaulThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia GOP leader blocks resolution backing intelligence community on Russia Rand Paul blocks Sanders's Russia resolution, calls it 'crazy hatred' against Trump 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 RubioRubio: Crisis in Nicaragua could lead to civil war Release of Carter Page surveillance documents reignites debate Graham: Warrant for Carter Page surveillance was 'a bunch of garbage' 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.