McConnell Worried About 'Candidate Quality' in Senate Races

Minority leader thinks the race for control of the chamber is too close to call
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2022 1:01 PM CDT
McConnell: 'Candidate Quality' Could Make or Break GOP Midterms
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seen in his office at the Capitol in Washington on Aug. 3.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Historically speaking, the party of the sitting US president loses ground in the midterms, ceding seats in the House or Senate, or both if it's a particularly brutal bloodbath. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is holding off on proclaiming any kind of premature victory in his own chamber for the GOP in November, suggesting instead that he thinks it could go either way. "I think there's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate," he said Thursday at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce event in Florence, per the Washington Post. He added that "Senate races are just different," noting that "candidate quality" has a lot to do with how those statewide face-offs turn out.

And it's just too close to call now, from McConnell's perspective. "I think when all is said and done this fall, we're likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly," he said. Although he didn't name anyone in particular in his reference to candidates' "quality," NBC News details some of the Republican competitors that may be making McConnell nervous, including Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, who continues to lag in the polls opposite Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Republicans have also nominated rookie candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump in critical states like Arizona, Georgia, and Ohio to match up against Dems who've been around the political block longer.

Despite weak polling numbers for President Biden that should (in theory) serve to boost the GOP in the midterms, Cook Political Report is now calling the race for control of the Senate a "toss-up," noting that "nightmares" of past weak GOP candidates—e.g., Delaware Tea Party activist Christine O'Donnell and Todd Akin of Missouri, who lost his 2012 bid for a Senate seat after his comments about "legitimate rape"—are now "taunting Republican lawmakers and Senate strategists as fears grow that this midterm cycle could be 2010 and 2012 all over again." Anthony Adragna writes for Politico that McConnell's somewhat downcast prediction for the GOP is notable, as the minority leader "is deft at not answering questions when he doesn't want to." Still, NBC notes that Republicans only need to make a net gain of one seat to wrest control of the Senate from the Dems. (More Mitch McConnell stories.)

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