Less than 90 days before the November election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the odds of Republicans maintaining control of the Senate are “very dicey.”
While on recess in his home state, the Kentucky Republican told a Louisville-area civic group Thursday that Republicans are in a “dogfight” to fend off Democrats fighting to win Senate seats, according to the Associated Press.
Listing the Senate races in New Hampshire, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, and Indiana as “very competitive,” he said that Senate Republicans will need to be “on defense” in the upcoming election.
“I may or may not be calling the shots next year," said McConnell, who became the majority leader after the GOP won control of the Senate in the 2014 election.
McConnell pointed to serious implications for Republicans if they lose control of the Senate, saying that GOP senators’ ability “to impact judicial appointments will be considerably diminished” if Democrats regain a majority.
A source in McConnell’s office said the senator has long warned about the possibility of Democrats winning Senate seats just by virtue of the math that Republicans have 24 seats up for grabs and Democrats only have 10.
McConnell did not attribute the competitiveness of these down-ballot races to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but he said he hopes that Trump “settles down and follows the script.”
When asked about Trump’s recent comments calling President Obama the “founder” of ISIS,“ for example, McConnell said: "I'm hoping that we can make this election about Hillary Clinton. I think if we do, we can win.”
He also responded to a 72-year-old Trump supporter, Cathie Tucker, who urged the Senate majority leader to be more vocal in his support of Trump.
“He's the Republican nominee," said Tucker, "Don't you think you should stand with the people?"
"I did," McConnell said. "I endorsed him after he won the Indiana primary and became the nominee. I do support him."
McConnell later added that “when [Trump] says something and I have to speak up, I will. But that doesn't mean I don't support him.”
"Believe me, a vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton is easy for me. Easy," he said.