Arguably one of the most anti-Trump Republicans in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tells CNN he is not confident his party can regain the upper-chamber majority, despite a "good map."
"No, no — I'm not," McConnell said in an expansive interview with Manu Raju, spending "10 minutes explaining to you how we could screw this up, and we're working very hard to not let that happen, let's put it that way."
Despite the fears, McConnell's party is defending just 11 seats compared to 23 for Democrats next year. Just two GOP incumbents are considered vulnerable for a Democrat flip, despite being in GOP-friendly states, and three Democrat seats in red states are vulnerable, according to Raju.
"As of right now the day that you and I are talking, I think we know that we are going to compete in four places heavily, and that would be Montana, West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania," McConnell said.
But he admits beating Democrat incumbents is difficult.
"I think it's important to go into this cycle understanding once again how hard it is to beat the incumbents, no incumbent lost last year," McConnell said in the Friday interview posted online Monday. "Having said that, if you were looking for a good map, this is a good map."
McConnell, who had attempted to ignore helping — if not outright opposing — candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump, pointed to another potential intra-GOP battle in the next cycle.
"We do have the possibility of screwing this up and that gets back to candidate recruitment," McConnell told the left-leaning outlet. "I think that we lost Georgia, Arizona, and New Hampshire because we didn't have competitive candidates. And Steve Daines and I are in exactly the same place — that starts with candidate quality."
Some Trump-connected McConnell critics said the Senate GOP leader was wary of potential incoming senators who would not support him as leader of the party, preferring to be minority leader over just another senator.
In one case, McConnell backed anti-Trump Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in a deep-red, ranked-choice-voting state versus Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka. Then, Murkowski subverted the GOP in the state, backing Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, against Trump-endorsed Sarah Palin and another Republican.
Despite that reality, McConnell claimed he does not "have an ideological litmus test.
"We want to win in November," he said.
"We'll be involved in any primary where that seems to be necessary to get a high-quality candidate, and we'll be involved in every general election where we have a legitimate shot of winning — regardless of the philosophy of the nominee."
McConnell admits Wisconsin is tough for a Republican to win, because "clearly you'd have to have an outstanding candidate, and I think there are some other places where with the right candidate, we might be able to compete — in Nevada, Arizona."
West Virginia — with term-limited Gov. Jim Justice entering the GOP Senate primary race — is a key one in a potential bid for the seat of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
"What we do know about West Virginia is it's very, very red, and we have an extremely popular incumbent governor who's announced for the Senate, and we're going to go all out to win it," McConnell said.
"What I care about in November is winning and having an 'R' by your name, and I think it is way too early to start assessing various candidacies that may or may not materialize," he added.
McConnell even admitted Trump as the GOP nominee will help flip Senate seats in West Virginia, Montana, and Ohio — even if Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania have not been kind to Trump.
"Look, I'm going to support the nominee of our party for president, no matter who that may be," McConnell said.
"Whether you are a Trump fan or a Trump opponent, I can't imagine Trump if he's the nominee not doing well in West Virginia, Montana, and Ohio."
Eric Mack ✉
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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