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

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHas Trump beaten the system? Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Tokyo Olympics kick off with 2020-style opening ceremony 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-CortezJD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary On The Money: Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' | Frustration builds as infrastructure talks drag 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 GardnerEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms MORE (R-Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ariz.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenators hail 'historic changes' as competing proposals to tackle military sexual assault advance Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Overnight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden 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 TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? 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.