GOP leader on 2020: We need a 'referendum on socialism'

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Biden not ruling out Senate voting to impeach Trump: 'It will depend on what their constituency says' Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday said he wants to make the 2020 presidential and Senate elections a “referendum on socialism” by pinning down Democrats on proposals like "Medicare for all" and the Green New Deal.

“We need to have a referendum on socialism,” McConnell told a group of reporters when asked for his assessment of next year’s elections, when Senate Republicans will have to defend 22 seats, compared with12 for Democrats.

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“I’m going to be arguing, and I’m encouraging my colleagues to argue, that we are the firewall against socialism in this country,” McConnell added.

He said Republicans need to make the case to the American people, “if you’re uncomfortable with things like the Green New Deal and Medicare for none, the best way to avoid that is to have a Republican Senate."

McConnell predicted that Republicans would have a target-rich environment with at least five Democratic presidential candidates backing Medicare for all legislation and at least six supporting the Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders 'very concerned about what appears to be a coup' in Bolivia Trump celebrates resignation of Bolivia's president Sanders touts big crowds in Iowa rallies with Ocasio-Cortez MORE’s (D-N.Y.) ambitious plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve got five credible candidates for president in the Senate signed up for the Green New Deal and Medicare for none. If we can’t make that case, we ought to go into another line of work,” he said.

McConnell argues that will be the key to reversing the drop in support among women and college graduates that hurt Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats won back the House and captured GOP-held Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada.

He said Republicans lost races last year because “we got crushed in the suburbs.”

“We lost college graduates and women in the suburbs, which led in the House to loses in suburban Kansas City; Oklahoma City; Houston; Dallas; Atlanta; Charleston, South Carolina,” McConnell said. “We’re determined not to lose women, certainly not by 19 points, and college graduates in our Senate races. And I don’t think we will.”

McConnell said Republicans “have to correct what was clearly on full display in ’18."

The best strategy, he said, is for candidates to position themselves in contrast to liberal Democrats running for president.

“I think that’s correctable by Republican Senate candidates,” he added. “I think it’s essential to correct it in the places I mentioned and probably other places as well."

“There’s no good reason for your typical suburban resident to be frightened by this Republican Senate,” he said. “I think we’re the safeguard or, put another way, the firewall against a bunch of people who are in a totally different mindset.”

McConnell also said he will encourage vulnerable colleagues such as Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' It's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number MORE (R-Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths MORE (R-Ariz.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs MORE (R-N.C.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) to run on their own brands and not be afraid to distinguish themselves from President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE and the national GOP.

“My advice to all of our people, take Gardner and McSally and maybe Tillis and maybe Perdue: Paint your own picture,” McConnell said.

“I think we’re planning on running independent campaigns,” he added.