Last year, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ascended to the post he’s sought for decades: Senate Majority Leader. The Republican senator noted in January 2015 that he believed he could keep that position for a while if his party could avoid being “scary” to the American mainstream.
“I don’t want the American people to think that if they add a Republican president to a Republican Congress, that’s going to be a scary outcome,” McConnell told the Washington Post early last year. “I want the American people to be comfortable with the fact that the Republican House and Senate is a responsible, right-of-center, governing majority.”
The GOP-led Congress has struggled mightily to demonstrate its “governing” abilities, and McConnell’s concerns about appearing “scary” were confirmed when his party nominated Donald Trump.
And now, as Politico noted, McConnell finds himself wondering whether his stint in the majority will be more than a two-year affair.
“I may or may not be calling the shots next year,” McConnell told a civic group in Louisville, according to The Associated Press.McConnell, in an apparent overture to donors, called Republicans’ chances to retain the Senate “very dicey.”
Some of this should probably be taken with a grain of salt. McConnell no doubt realizes that this cycle will be difficult, and the more he rings the alarm, the more likely it is that GOP donors will write generous checks to help the party hold onto its majority. Too much optimism is bad for fundraising.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean McConnell’s comments were insincere.
Remember, the current makeup of the chamber is 54 Republicans to 46 Democrats, which means Dems need a net gain of five seats to reclaim its majority.
With that in mind, note that the most recent Cook Political Report analysis found that only one current “blue” seat – Nevada – is competitive this year, while there are seven “red” Senate seats that are considered toss-up contests – Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – and three more Republican seats in Arizona, Missouri, and North Carolina that are far closer than Republicans would like.
Given the circumstances, “very dicey” seems like a pretty accurate assessment of the Senate landscape for McConnell’s Republicans.