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McConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November

The Hill logo The Hill 8/12/2020 Jordain Carney
Mitch McConnell wearing a suit and tie: McConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November © Greg Nash McConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Tuesday that he thought keeping control of the majority would be "tough."

"What I'd tell you is this is a tough fight. It could go either way. We're optimistic we can hold on," he said during a Fox News interview when asked how he would handicap the battle for the Senate.

McConnell said there are approximately eight Senate races that he would compare to "a knife fight in an alley. They are tough challenges."

"This was always going to be a tough cycle for us," he said, adding that there is "a lot of exposure around the country."

McConnell didn't name the states he views as battleground races. But Arizona and Colorado, where GOP Sens. Martha McSally and Cory Gardner are on the ballot, are ranked by political handicappers as leaning toward Democrats. Meanwhile, Senate fights in Georgia, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina and Montana, all currently held by Republicans, are viewed as toss-up races.

Republicans are still viewed as favored to win back a Senate seat in Alabama, where Sen. Doug Jones (D) is running for a full six-year term.

Republicans won the majority in 2014 and currently have a 53-47 margin in the Senate. If Democrats win the White House, they would need a net gain of only three seats to control the chamber because the vice president could break a 50-50 tie. They would need a net gain of four seats to have a simple majority outright.

Republicans have signaled growing alarm about their chances to hold on to the majority amid a slew of negative polls for President Trump and several GOP candidates in key races. Adding further uncertainty to the November election are the spread of the coronavirus and a rocky economy with tens of millions of Americans unemployed.

Republicans did catch a break last week when Rep. Roger Marshall defeated former gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach for the Republican Senate nomination in Kansas. Republicans had feared that Kobach winning the party's nomination would risk their ability to hold on to the seat, currently held by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, during the general election.

McConnell, the day after the GOP primary, didn't shy away from celebrating the result, telling reporters at the time that it "turned out really well."

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