The Senate is not immune from a blue wave in November — and nine states will likely decide the outcome, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
In an interview with The Washington Post, McConnell said candor is better than "spin."
"I always think it's better to be candid and not try to spin people into thinking this isn't going to be a challenging election," McConnell told the news outlet.
"I think the safest place to be is just to say that this is going to be a very challenging election, and I don't think we know in May . . . whether it's Category 3, 4 or 5."
Republicans are defending a slim 51-49 advantage in the Senate in November — and McConnell believes the battle will be won or lost in races in Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, and Florida.
"By any objective standard, those are the seats that are likely to be in play," McConnell said.
Absent from his list were the three key states to Trump's 2016 win: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have Democratic senators are up for re-election in November, the Post noted.
But in three of the states he did flag, Republicans are playing defense: Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee. The rest are places where Trump won — in most cases by a wide margin — and a Democratic senator is on the ballot. They are also states where Trump has stepped up his attacks against Democratic senators.
McConnell did not put much stock in recent polling that tracks a rise in the standings of Republicans — and the president.
"The polls come and go," McConnell told the Post. "And recent polls have indicated, you know, kind of a movement in our direction. I expect to see that happen multiple times between now and November."
He also emphasized historical trends do not bode well for his party, even though the Senate map looks favorable.
"It's pretty hard to deny the history of off-year elections, particularly off-year elections two years into the first term," McConnell told the Post.
But the veteran GOP leader warned a big complication could emerge before midterms: a government shutdown when funding expires Sept. 30. Trump has already threatened to close it down if there is no funding for his border wall — and he will not sign another massive bill like the $1.3 trillion measure he agreed to in March.
"None of us are happy about omnibuses, but there were no surprises in there," McConnell told the Post, adding: "They were totally involved in the negotiation with Democrats that we finally reached. We'll not be shutting down the government in the fall, either."
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