Mitch McConnell said Thursday that his party’s chance of maintaining control of the Senate in 2016 are “very dicey” and he could not be sure of his status as the majority leader next year.
McConnell did not specifically mention Republican nominee Donald Trump’s drag on down-ballot races at the meeting with a Louisville-area civic group in his home state, according to The Associated Press, but he chided Trump’s campaign tactics and said he hopes Trump “settles down and follows the script.”
Several Republican candidates — including onetime favorites like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — have floundered in recent weeks as Trump struggles in the polls and exasperates GOP leaders with explosive comments. Just this week, for instance, Trump declared Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama the founder and co-founder of the ISIS terrorist organization and invited Second Amendment advocates to take action against Clinton.
GOP party leaders have registered increasing alarm. McConnell expressed concern about Trump’s recent missteps during the appearance but told the group that he still stands behind his endorsement, Louisville public radio station WFPL reported.
He nevertheless acknowledged that the party is at a crossroads.
“I may or may not be calling the shots next year,” McConnell said.
With the election less than three months away, McConnell said Republicans are in “a dogfight,” The Associated Press reported. He listed GOP-held seats in New Hampshire, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida and Indiana as “very competitive.”
McConnell said Senate Republicans were going to be “on defense” in this year’s election, regardless of who ended up leading the ticket as the party’s presidential candidate, the AP reported.
McConnell has been making similar statements about the GOP’s 2016 chances for years, a spokesperson said.
The GOP is defending 24 Senate seats this year, compared to the Democrats’ 10, he noted. McConnell was promoted to majority leader two years ago when a Republican surge wrested Senate control from Democrats.
Democrats need to pick up five seats to take back control of the Senate, or four if they also keep control of the White House, since the vice president casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate, the AP reported.