Aug 21, 2022
McConnell admits Democrats may hold the Senate Transcript
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted that it was less likely the GOP would flip the Senate than the House. Read the transcript here.
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Erin Burnett: (00:00)
Tonight, Mitch McConnell downplaying chances of Republicans winning back the Senate, which looked almost like a foregone conclusion just a few months ago.
Mitch McConnell: (00:10)
I think that there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.
Erin Burnett: (00:21)
Several Republican Senate candidates are struggling right now to get an upper hand, including Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia, and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Republicans just poured another $28 million into Vance’s race today. Even Republican incumbent Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in a new poll is now seven points behind his Democratic challenger. This is not what everybody said was going to happen 30 days ago, 60 days ago. Harry Enten, a CNN data reporter, and he is with me now. So Harry, the landscape has changed pretty dramatically, at least people’s perception of the landscape. Where do things stand?
Harry Enten: (00:56)
Yeah, I must admit Erin, I am surprised at where things stand. You look at key races like in Arizona, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin. What do you see in these races in Georgia? You see the Democrats ahead in Arizona, new Fox News poll, literally out last hour, plus eight points. Georgia, again, Democrats up three points. Ohio. You do see that J.D. Vance is ahead, but barely ahead. Pennsylvania, Fetterman, up 10. Wisconsin, up four, Mandela Barnes in an average of recent polls. This is not where I thought things were, and it speaks to a shifting tide towards the Democrats that we’ve seen nationally. Biden’s approval rating’s a little bit up. The generic ballot Democrats are doing a little bit better, and now we’re also seeing it in Senate races as well.
Erin Burnett: (01:39)
Okay, which is very significant. Then McConnell says something. He’s always careful with what he says, and it’s always very evenly delivered. Okay, but he said something important. He said, “Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” and on those races you see there, those are the candidates people point to for exactly that issue.
Harry Enten: (01:57)
That’s exactly right. I mean, just go to Pennsylvania, for example. Mehmet Oz, who’s 20 points underwater on his net favorability, that’s his favorable minus his unfavorable rating. You look at a state like Georgia, you see Herschel Walker, again, minus five points on his net favorability, and you keep going to all these different states, Arizona, Blake Masters, four points underwater, and you see that in all those races that we mentioned where the Democrats are ahead, the net favorability of the different Republicans is underwater. Their unfavorable ratings are higher than their favorable ratings. This is a longstanding problem with Republicans. We saw it in 2010 as well, a year in which we thought Republicans had a good chance of taking back the Senate, and they blew it because they nominated bad candidates in the minds of the voters.
Erin Burnett: (02:38)
Right, and you got Johnson, and you’ve got an incumbent, but Oz, that was completely discretionary. That was their choice. Walker, completely discretionary. That’s their choice.
Harry Enten: (02:47)
That was their choice, and in a lot of those cases, who was the man who perhaps got those candidates over the finish line? It was the former President, Donald Trump, who went in and endorsed Mehmet Oz, for example. He didn’t have to be the nominee, but because of Trump’s endorsement, he barely got Oz over the finish line in Pennsylvania.
Erin Burnett: (03:01)
That’s amazing. You wonder when Georgia will ever learn. Well, President Biden’s approval rating does remain low. You talked about it improving a little bit, but it’s still bad.
Harry Enten: (03:08)
Erin Burnett: (03:08)
Okay. Latest CNN poll has him at 38%, so I understand direction matters. What is more important here for Democrats, the level or the direction?
Harry Enten: (03:18)
I might argue that while they’re both important, the thing that’s most interesting to me, if you go back over time and you say, “Okay, let’s look at the Senate races or the Senate years in which the incumbent, the White House party, did not in fact lose any seats, or in fact gained seats, and look at the president’s approval rating in those years.” We don’t actually see that much of a relationship.
Erin Burnett: (03:37)
Harry Enten: (03:38)
You look at 1982, for example, Ronald Reagan was not anywhere close to 50%. In fact, Republicans held their ground. You look just four years ago. Remember, Donald Trump was well underwater. What happened? Republicans actually gained two Senate seats. Now, there are years in which the president’s approval rating is high and the White House party holds or gains seats, but the relationship is not as straight as you might expect it to be. So at this point, even though Biden’s approval rating’s low, it’s not shocking to me that Democrats are not only holding their ground, if the election were held today, they might actually gain a Senate seat.
Erin Burnett: (04:07)
Yeah, which is incredible, and McConnell sees it as well.
Harry Enten: (04:10)
It’s right there in the numbers, Erin.
Erin Burnett: (04:11)