Senate

Poll shows 25 percent view McConnell favorably, lowest among leaders in survey

Only a quarter of U.S. voters view Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) favorably, the lowest of any other congressional leader included in the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill on Tuesday.

The survey showed McConnell's favorability underwater at just 25 percent, with 44 percent having an unfavorable view.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fared little better, coming in at 30 percent and 35 percent, respectively. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was not included in the survey.

The approval rating for all three leaders are below President Trump's favorability, according to the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey, which stands at 41 percent, while Vice President Pence comes in at 42 percent.

Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, said that McConnell's dwindling favorability, as well as that of other congressional leaders, suggests that the government shutdown is taking a political toll on lawmakers.

"None of the leaders in Congress have near the favorability of President Trump - McConnell has the lowest national numbers, but Pelosi and Schumer are also facing widespread opposition despite the pulpit and authority they now wield," Penn said, adding that there's "no sign anyone in Congress is winning the shutdown."

McConnell's low favorability comes amid the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and as he prepares to head into his 2020 reelection bid.

Democrats, fresh off a successful bid to recapture the House majority in 2018, are bullish about their chances of flipping control of the Senate next year, when nearly two-dozen Republicans will face reelection.

Already, Democrats have started eyeing potential candidates to challenge GOP incumbents in states like Georgia and Arizona, where Democrats saw their political momentum rise in 2018.

Amy McGrath, a Democrat who narrowly lost her race against Rep. Andy Barr (R) in Kentucky's 6th District last year, has been floated as a potential challenger to McConnell in 2020.

She said last month that she will not run for governor in 2019, fueling speculation of a possible Senate bid.

It's unclear how aggressively Democrats are planning to target McConnell's seat in 2020. But David Bergstein, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that the Kentucky Republican's reelection prospects are on shaky ground.

"A pack of bloodhounds couldn't find a voter who likes Sen. McConnell," Bergstein said. "He's driven America into the longest government shutdown in history, pushed a health care agenda that slashes coverage for pre-existing conditions and he wants to cut Medicare and Social Security so he can give his rich, powerful friends another tax break.

"He's so focused on money and power he's forgotten his job is to put the Commonwealth's interests first and that's why he's so vulnerable in 2020."

McConnell's office did not reply to a request for comment from The Hill.

That he's likely to be targeted by Democrats in 2020 isn't lost on McConnell.

In an interview with McClatchy DC last month, the top Senate Republican acknowledged his unpopularity among Democrats and conceded that he's likely to be a prime target next year.

"I'm sure I'm the one Republican every Democrat in the country will want to beat other than Donald Trump, with whom I will be on the ballot and I do share that honor with him," McConnell told the news outlet. "I'm sure it will attract resources all over the country."

Still, McConnell has so far been elected to six terms in the Senate and Kentucky is seen as favorable territory for Republicans.

 

Trump carried the state in 2016 by roughly 30 points, and having the president on the ballot once again in 2020 could give McConnell a boost.

What's more, the Kentucky Republican has more than $3.3 million in his campaign account, according to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.

 

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, currently puts McConnell's race in the "likely Republican" column.

Also looming over McConnell is the ongoing partial government shutdown, now in its fifth week.

Trump has feuded with congressional Democrats over his demand for $5.7 billion to fund his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border - the main sticking point in the funding dispute. 

 

The Senate will hold votes on Thursday on two dueling bills that would reopen the government.

One of the votes will be on Trump's proposal to provide $5.7 billion in border wall funding in exchange for a three-year extension of protected status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and temporary protected status holders.

The other would be a vote on a three-week continuing resolution, which would reopen the government and continue negotiations between the parties on border security.

It's unclear if either bill will reach the 60 votes needed to advance.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,540 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 15-16.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll throughout 2019.

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

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