Senate

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

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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.

{mosads}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 Reid (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 Donnelly. He stumbled by claiming pregnancy from rape is “something God intended.”

Akin squandered a likely win against Sen. Claire McCaskill (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 Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. 

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (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 Paul (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 Rubio’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.

Tags Claire McCaskill Donald Trump Harry Reid Joe Donnelly Kelly Ayotte Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Ted Cruz
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