Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Republican voters on April 12 of slipping up chances of retaking the Senate in November midterms, if “unacceptable” candidates win their primaries.
“This atmosphere for Republicans is better than it was in 1994,” McConnell told members of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce at a Tuesday event, referencing the success in the 1994 U.S. midterm elections. It was when Republicans won control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in 40 years.
Yet flawed candidates can still “screw this up,” McConnell said. “It’s actually possible. And we’ve had some experience with that in the past.”
“In the Senate, if you look at where we have to compete in order to get into a majority, there are places that are competitive in the general election,” he added.
One-third of 100 Senate seats will come up for the November election and the slightest push towards either party, which can be a net gain or loss of one seat, will tip the now 50–50 split balance. A potential red wave is growing under the GOP-favoured political environment as President Joe Biden struggles to build political momentum and rebound in polling amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and historic domestic inflation.
Yet Republicans will need to hold state Senate primaries first to determine their nominees in the general election. The party failed to secure the Senate majority in the 2010 and 2012 cycles, said McConnell during the event, by nominating less mainstream candidates.
“So you can’t nominate somebody who’s just sort of unacceptable to a broader group of people and win,” McConnell said. He has warned to step in with allies before a prospective candidate would cost the chance of toppling Democrats in the race.
Former President Donald Trump flustered the party’s right flank over the past weekend after endorsing Dr. Mehmet Oz for the Pennsylvania Senate and Rep. Ted Budd in the GOP primary for North Carolina.
Senate candidate and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens also fueled controversy over his electability after being accused by his ex-wife of domestic violence, although decried his campaign.
With the 2022 midterms seven months away, McConnell said the current year has brought “a perfect storm of problems for the Democrats.”
“So far I’m optimistic that in the places that are going to determine who the next majority leader is, we’re going to have fully electable nominees,” he said.