McConnell: Election will be ‘very challenging’ for Senate Republicans

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned on Tuesday that the November midterm elections will be “very challenging” for Republicans, saying that the GOP is facing a “storm” as it tries to hold on to the Senate.

McConnell, speaking with reporters in Louisville, Ky., said Republicans know the “wind is going to be in our face” with several make-or-break races with tight polling.

{mosads}”You can’t repeal history, and almost every election two years into any new administration the party of the presidency loses seats. They don’t always lose the body, but almost always loses seats. And so we know that this is going to be a very challenging election on the Senate side,” McConnell told reporters when asked about his party’s chances of keeping the upper chamber.

Republicans started the cycle facing a favorable map that could potentially allow them to increase their narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate. Democrats are playing defense to keep 10 seats in states President Trump won in the 2016 election.

But with eight weeks to go until the November elections, Democrats have a narrow path to retaking the Senate if the party can sweep every race considered a toss-up.

McConnell on Tuesday ticked off a number of states where he believes the races are currently “dead even”: Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida.

“All of them too close to call and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley. Just a brawl. In every one of those places. I hope when the smoke clears we’ll still have a majority in the Senate,” McConnell told reporters.

Three of those seats — Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee — are currently held by Republican senators. But GOP Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) are retiring after this year, and Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent as he runs in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP outside group with close ties to McConnell, announced earlier Tuesday that it was putting up new ads targeting Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), as well as Rep. Jacky Rosen and Phil Bredesen, the Democratic Senate candidates in Nevada and Tennessee, respectively.

McConnell didn’t mention Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Ohio — four other states where a Democratic senator is running in a state Trump won in 2016.

Republicans are also facing a tougher than expected fight in Texas, where Sen. Ted Cruz (R) is narrowly leading Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) in polling as outside money pours into the reliably red state.

McConnell, asked about the race, acknowledged on Tuesday that Cruz is in a “competitive” battle to keep his seat.

“I think Ted’s got a competitive race by all indications,” McConnell said. “We certainly expect to win in Texas, but I think he does have a competitive race.”

Tags Beto O'Rourke Bob Corker Claire McCaskill Dean Heller Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Hillary Clinton Jacky Rosen Jeff Flake Mitch McConnell Ted Cruz

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