Trump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE at a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans on Tuesday attempted to quell mounting GOP anxieties over his prospects for reelection and the future of their majority, which have been thrown into doubt by the coronavirus pandemic and soaring unemployment.

Trump urged GOP senators to stay unified and play offense by taking the political fight to Democrats, repeating to them his accusation that senior Obama administration officials tried to sabotage his campaign and incoming administration in 2016 and 2017.

He sought to assuage their concerns about polls showing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden Florida heat sends a dozen Trump rally attendees to hospital Harris more often the target of online misinformation than Pence: report MORE with a healthy lead in key states by emphasizing the enthusiasm advantage he has among base voters.


And on the crucial issue of jobs, Trump voiced confidence that the economy would bounce back by the election despite a national unemployment rate that stood at 14.7 percent in April and is expected to rise well above 20 percent in the next month.

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoTech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing GOP power shift emerges with Trump, McConnell Bill to expand support for community addiction treatment passes House MORE (R-W.Va.) said the main message from Trump was “let’s stick together here and things are going well.”

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mo.) said the president’s comments on the economy were “completely in line with his optimism about a V-shaped recovery and a strong third and fourth quarter and an even stronger year next year.”

But Republicans didn’t necessarily leave the meeting feeling as bullish as Trump about the party’s prospects.

Asked if Senate Republicans largely share Trump’s confidence of the economy quickly surging back to full strength, Blunt replied: “That would be a different question.”

“I don’t know that I’d have a capacity to talk about where Republicans are on that. But the president is very optimistic about returning the economy to where it was the first of this year and I hope he’s right,” Blunt added.


Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE (R-N.D.), one of Trump’s staunch allies, acknowledged after the lunch there is concern about the future of the GOP majority because Republicans have to defend 23 seats while Democrats have to protect only 12.

To take back the majority, Democrats would need to gain three seats if they win the White House, four if they do not.

The growing GOP worries about the Senate are reflected by a new push to recruit Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo's wife and son made personal requests of State Dept staff: report Pompeo: US citizens born in Jerusalem can now list Israel on passports The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE to run for retiring Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate GOP's campaign arm releases first ad targeting Bollier in Kansas The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida National Republicans will spend to defend Kansas Senate seat MORE’s (R) seat in Kansas.

One Republican senator who attended the meeting said this shows the height of concern about keeping the majority and not taking any seat for granted.

“Every seat is clearly important and Kansas shouldn’t be a problem,” said the lawmaker, who requested anonymity to discuss the meeting.

Trump has directly urged Pompeo to reconsider running for the Kansas Senate seat and “White House allies” have done so as well in recent weeks, according to a Senate Republican strategist.

On the presidential race, the senator said Trump came to the meeting armed with his own numbers, which contradicted recent public polls showing him trailing Biden in key swing states.

“The president had polls showing how well he’s doing,” said the source.

Trump painted a rosier picture of Republican prospects than indicated by recent polls showing Biden leading Trump in states such as Arizona and Florida, which are crucial to his reelection.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP sees path to hold Senate majority Cook moves Texas to 'toss-up' Biden pushes into Trump territory MORE (R-Texas) said Republicans are well aware of the polling ahead of this year’s election but noted that Trump doesn’t appear concerned.

“We all pretty much see the poll numbers,” Cornyn said, but added of Trump: “He actually was pretty proud of where his numbers were.”

Initial GOP optimism about the ability to quickly reopen the U.S. economy has given way to trepidation as the nation’s testing program is well behind schedule.


Several Republican strongholds across the country, such as Texas, Alabama and North Dakota, have seen spikes in reported coronavirus cases, although there’s debate if that’s because of easing restrictions or greater availability of testing.

Republicans have expressed concerns about the shortage of testing for nearly two months.

Senators themselves don’t have access to point-of-care testing machines that provide results in minutes instead of days.

They gathered in a large hearing room in the Senate Hart Office Building on Tuesday to meet with Trump without getting tested, even though White House staff who come near the president get tested regularly.

Trump sought to reassure Republicans on the testing front by asserting that there will have been 13 million tests nationally by midweek.

“He talked a lot about the [COVID -19]stuff, obviously. Vaccines, about ventilators,” said Cramer. “There have been 12 million tests. I think … and then within a day and a half, there’ll be 13 million. Jared actually answered that, he asked Jared what the numbers were,” referring to senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump says ex-staffer who penned 'Anonymous' op-ed should be 'prosecuted' Kushner told Woodward in April Trump was 'getting the country back from the doctors' What a Biden administration should look like MORE, who also attended the meeting.


Several GOP senators said Trump emphasized the importance of party unity, a possible signal he is worried about Republicans trying to distance themselves or criticize his handling of the pandemic as Election Day nears.

So far, Republican senators have refrained from criticizing Trump’s performance, though there have been a few exceptions.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWhy Biden could actually win Texas The spectre of pension failures haunts this election The Memo: Five reasons why Trump could upset the odds MORE (R-Utah) has been the most outspoken in calling out what he sees as a lack of a national plan for increasing the availability of testing. Romney attended the lunch but didn’t speak, according to colleagues.

Trump urged GOP senators to ramp up their attacks on Democrats and reiterated his allegation that senior Obama administration officials tried to undermine his campaign and presidential transition team in 2016 and 2017.

“He pretty regularly reminds us that we’re not as tough as [Democrats] are. That they play more for keeps, that they stick together better,” said Cramer.

“He just said, ‘Be tough. Be tough,’ ” the senator added. “I take it that he’s referring, politically speaking, as we go down the stretch, don’t expect them to do you any favors.”