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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could soon be faced with a new wave of Republicans in the Senate who oppose his messaging, however he continues to offer support for those representing the GOP on the ballot amid “candidate quality” concerns.
On Thursday, when asked for his 2022 prediction at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon, McConnell cited “candidate quality” as a reason why he believes Republicans will face difficulty in flipping the Senate in November and instead might only be able to flip control of the House.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” said McConnell, who has led the GOP in the Senate since 2007. “Senate races are just different, they’re statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
Despite McConnell’s remarks, The Associated Press reported that the McConnell-controlled Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) purchased $28 million in advertising this week to boost Republican J.D. Vance in Ohio, a seat many Republicans thought to be safe for the GOP. The SLF also announced this month that it had invested more than $34 million into the Pennsylvania Senate race featuring Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, who will face off against John Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor and the Democratic Senate nominee, in the general election.
Other spending from the SLF includes a $141 million in fall advertising reservation for elections taking place in Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The spending on advertisements — which will begin airing on Sept. 6 — is more than double the $67 million SLF spent in 2020, setting a record-high for the PAC.
Prior to his remarks over the “quality” of Republican candidates running in Senate races, McConnell also issued support for GOP Senate candidates facing tough elections against Democrats, including Herschel Walker in Georgia and Adam Laxalt in Nevada — both of which received endorsements from former President Donald Trump.
Several GOP Senate candidates have expressed reservations about McConnell’s leadership for the party, with some insisting that he should no longer represent Republicans at the helm in the Senate.
During a podcast interview last September, Vance, who seeks to defeat Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, in the Senate race later this year, insisted it was time for “new blood” in the Senate and suggested that McConnell had shown at times that he was “out of touch” with Republican voters.
“I think McConnell has shown at times that he’s a little out of touch with the base,” he said. “I think that it’s time that we moved beyond the very old leadership class that’s dominated the Republican Party for a long time. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to bring some new blood in. We’ve got to get people the base is really excited about.”
In another interview, Vance claimed he is the “only person in the Ohio Senate race who’s actually been willing to criticize leadership” and that he “will continue to criticize leadership” when he believes “they’re wrong.”
Last month, Eric Schmitt, Missouri’s current attorney general and the Republican nominee for Senate in the state, called for “new leadership in the Senate” during a conversation with a reporter at a campaign event.
“Mitch McConnell was elected to the Senate in 1985. I think the party’s priorities changed pretty dramatically. And I don’t think he’s kept up with that. I think that most recently, evidenced by the disastrous infrastructure bill, I was vocal about not supporting this gun confiscation law, the red flag law. I don’t support that,” said Schmitt, who is seeking to replace outgoing GOP Sen. Roy Blunt.
“I’ve been endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Mike Lee,” he added. “I’d love to see one of them run. I would support that. Mitch McConnell hasn’t endorsed me and I don’t endorse him for leadership in the Senate.”
Blake Masters, the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona, has also taken aim at McConnell in the past.
Earlier this year, Masters, who looks to defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in the state’s general election, weighed Senate GOP leadership replacements for McConnell, saying he’d support Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri or Tom Cotton of Arkansas for the position. In addition, he also said he believes McConnell is “not good at” legislating.
“I’ll tell Mitch this to his face,” Masters said during a GOP primary debate in June. “He’s not bad at everything. He’s good at judges. He’s good at blocking Democrats. You know what he’s not good at? Legislating.”
Despite his comments about McConnell at the time, Masters predicted Friday that the GOP leader will receive another term as GOP leader and that no Republicans will challenge him.
“I think he’ll be in charge. And I’m not just going to be a senator that falls in line to whatever he says,” Masters said, according to The Associated Press. “I’ll hear him out. I’m happy to listen. But my vote doesn’t belong to Mitch McConnell. It doesn’t belong to Donald Trump.”
Fox News’ Andrea Vacchiano and The Associated Press contributed to this article.