Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republican senators on the ballot in 2020 can attract support from suburban voters, especially women, by portraying themselves as a firewall against Democratic policies.
“We all know why it happened,” the Kentucky Republican said of the electoral shifts that enabled Democrats to win control of the House in 2018. “We got crushed in the suburbs. We lost college graduates and women in the suburbs, which led in the House to losses in suburban Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Charleston, South Carolina, Philadelphia.”
“We’re determined not to lose women, certainly not by 19 points, and college graduates, in our Senate races, and I don’t think we will,” McConnell said, speaking with a small group of print reporters in the Senate’s Strom Thurmond Room after the last floor votes before a two-week recess.
“I think we have to correct what was clearly on full display in ’18, which was the loss of support among women and college graduates, and I think that’s correctable by Republican Senate candidates,” McConnell said. “I think it’s essential to correct it in our races, in the places that I mentioned, and probably other places as well. There’s no good reason for your typical suburban resident to be threatened by this Republican Senate.”
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McConnell, who is sure to be among the GOP senators on the ballot in 2020 most targeted by the Democrats, said members of his conference should present themselves as a “safeguard” or a “firewall” against progressive policy ideas that are taking hold with members of the House and in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
“I can tell you how I think we ought to conduct Senate races: we need to have a referendum on socialism, where the Democrats are trying to take us. And argue to the American people, if you’re uncomfortable with the things like the Green New Deal and Medicare for none, the best way to avoid that is to have a Republican Senate,” McConnell said.
“The one big advantage whoever the majority leader is has, is the schedule,” he said. “You all know that can sometimes be enormously significant. For example, the decision I made not to fill the Supreme Court vacancy in the middle of the presidential election,” he added, referring to his ignoring President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick G. Garland to the high court.
McConnell also offered a bit of unsolicited advice to President Donald Trump about messaging and message discipline (a tactical point on which the president and the Senate majority leader are not at all alike).
“I would argue this is a better argument for the president to make as well, but he makes his own decisions about how he wants to frame things,” McConnell said. “From a Senate point of view, I’m going to be arguing, and I’m encouraging my colleagues to argue that we are the firewall against socialism in this country.”
While Trump’s presence on the ballot means 2020 will be very different from 2018, McConnell did say Thursday that he thinks his members will run their own campaigns. He specifically noted that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ran ahead of Trump in the Sunshine State in 2016.
“There’s obviously some ticket-splitting going on. My advice to all of our people: take [Colorado’s Cory Gardner] and [Arizona’s Martha McSally] and maybe [North Carolina’s Thom Tillis] and maybe [Georgia’s David Perdue], paint your own picture, you know, what difference has your service made,” he said. “And our races are big enough to where you can make a case independent of whatever else is going on.”
“That’s less likely on the House side. They tend to be more caught up in a sweep, one way or the other,” McConnell said. “I think we’re planning on running independent campaigns.”