Mitch McConnell suggests GOP ‘candidate quality’ could blow party’s chances of winning Senate

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a grim forecast for his party’s chances to flip control of the upper chamber, pointing to “candidate quality” as a key factor in critical races that could determine the balance of power in Congress.

He suggested that the GOP is more likely to win a majority in the House of Representatives rather than the Senate with midterm elections this fall, an election cycle that historically boosts the minority party but has sagged several Republican candidates in tight Senate races in a handful of states.

“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” Mr McConnell said during remarks in Kentucky on 18 August, according to NBC News. “Senate races are just different, they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”

Earlier this week, a political action committee tied to Mr McConnell flooded the campaign for Donald Trump-endorsed Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance, boosted by $28m in radio and television adverts ahead of a general election against Democratic candidate and current US Rep Tim Ryan.

In response to the GOP’s spending, Congressman Ryan said on Twitter that “if they’re so focused on our race, that means we must be doing something right. Here’s my message for Mitch McConnell, JD Vance, and the rest of the GOP: Bring it on.”

He also issued a fundraising appeal to supporters claiming that “Republicans are PANICKING after *multiple* polls showed this race in a deadlock” and anticipating that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – who analysts predict will mount a 2024 presidential campaign – will “attack me personally”.

“This is the beginning of Mitch McConnell’s new strategy to tear down my campaign,” Mr Ryan wrote.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee John Fetterman is increasingly expected to defeat GOP candidate Mehmet Oz, frequently ridiculed as an out-of-touch celebrity doctor.

And in Georgia, Republicans are relying on Herschel Walker – whose campaign has been saddled by persistent falsehoods about his career and family, including the revelation of several children he has never mentioned – to defeat incumbent Democratic Raphael Warnock, whose January 2021 victory along with Jon Ossoff clinched Democrats’ narrow control of the Senate.

“Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly,” Mr McConnell said.

Democrats have hoped to seize on momentum with a streak of Biden administration victories in the face of weak approval ratings and signs of relief after the worst inflation in decades.

Republican victories for a Senate majority could mean critical veto power in the final months of President Joe Biden’s first term, as well as effective control over his nominees for top administration positions and judicial appointments.