Nov 4, 2020
Mitch McConnell Press Briefing Day After Election Transcript November 4
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a press conference on November 4. He addressed the election and the state of the Republican party, saying Republicans need to “do better” with college-educated voters and women. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:02)
Well, good morning, everyone. Let me start by expressing again, what I did last night, my overwhelming gratitude for the support of the people of this great state. It’s been the honor of my life to have been able to represent them for as long as I have. And the size of the victory obviously, was gratifying as well.
Mitch McConnell: (00:30)
If you can imagine when I started out, I never imagined I would be able to carry 117 of 120 counties and win by 20 points. So it was a statement by the people of Kentucky, I think that they like having someone from our state, be able to help set the national agenda and to look out for middle America and for Kentucky. Beyond my race, as all of you know, we picked up 13 seats in the state house, two seat in the state Senate, and I think even more significant, given the challenges Republicans have had in recent years in the suburbs, won back to suits here in Jefferson County that were lost two years ago in suburban Eastern Jefferson County. Ken Fleming, Jason Nemes. Jason had actually survived last time and won again, and Fleming won his old seat back.
Mitch McConnell: (01:31)
So I think we’re very much aware of the challenges that we have in the suburbs across America. The other thing that’s been a Republican challenge really for a number of years and particularly in recent years is the gender gap. We haven’t totally broken it down, but at one point, at least in our practicing, I was ahead among women in Kentucky. And I think that must have been the case given the size of the margin. So it was a very gratifying victory for our side and Kentucky and for the opportunity to continue to serve our people and to set the agenda at the national stage.
Mitch McConnell: (02:16)
Now I know what’s on your minds. I don’t know whether I’m going to be the defensive coordinator or the offensive coordinator as we speak. I can tell you the latest that I know which is not definitive. We are in a pretty good position in North Carolina, but not able yet to declare victory. In Maine, they have an unusual situation in which if either candidate fails to get to 50, they go back and apply something called rank order voting.
Mitch McConnell: (02:53)
In other words, you put down your second choice. [inaudible 00:02:58] second choices. As of the moment, Senator Collins is an over 50. If that were to be sustained until they finished, she would win without going to rank order voting. So it’s not a runoff, but it starts counting your second choice, if neither candidate reaches 50. In Georgia, the only state in the union that requires you to get 50% in the general election, Senator Purdue is ahead, but it’s not clear yet whether he will win without having a runoff. And of course we have another runoff in Georgia anyway, because the other Georgia seat is an open seat.
Mitch McConnell: (03:43)
And under Georgia law, the way open seats are done is like a jungle primary. Everybody runs, and if anybody doesn’t get the 50, the top two have a runoff. And so in the other one, we know there’ll be another race January the sixth in the other Georgia Senate race. So, that’s the latest on the control of the Senate. And I’m sure you want to ask about other things. So let me at this point, throw it open and see where you want to go. Yeah.
Mitch McConnell: (04:31)
Well, I think we’ve talked about this before, but how you vote is determined at the state level and not in Washington. Every state does it differently. We did it differently this year under an agreement between the governor and the secretary of state. And our job as candidates is to adapt to however they want to conduct the vote. And there’s no question that there are greater number of states doing more, both early and absentee voting this year because of the coronavirus. So we have to adapt to whatever the rules are and given today, it’s not up to the federal government to determine how that’s done.
Mitch McConnell: (05:19)
As you know, I don’t just sort of engage in random observations about those comments. I can give you my point of view. And if you’re telling me the presidential election, I think this underscores the beauty of the electoral college. Everybody’s always taking shots at the electoral college. Imagine if you did not have the electoral college and you had a close election and the popular vote count, when would the litigation ever stop? But the electoral college guarantees that you have finality in 50 separate places. 50 separate places you get to a final outcome. We saw under the electoral college in 2000, a close election in one state created a five week challenge to get the outcome in the Bush versus Gore decision. So we ought to be grateful for the electoral college in a close presidential election like this. There will be finality reached in 50 separate places.
Mitch McConnell: (06:33)
It may take a while for the voting to finish and both sides will probably be lawyered up if it’s a close election. That’s happened before and could well happen this time. Yeah?
Mitch McConnell: (07:02)
No, I’m not because the Democrats have got lawyers out there already. Looking at the Senate, both sides are lawyered up in Georgia, North Carolina, Maine, both sides. Going to court is the way we resolve uncertainty in our country. So no, I’m not troubled at all by the president suggesting that, because the other sides already doing it too, and you can anticipate in close elections, both sides will be lawyered up and we’ll end up in court. It’s happened over and over and over again, nothing unusual.
Mitch McConnell: (07:40)
I’m having a hard time understanding you. Well, it’s not unusual for people to claim they won the election. I can think of that happening on numerous occasions. But claiming you win the election is different from finishing the counting. And what we’re going to see here in the next few days, both in the Senate races and in the presidential race is each state will ultimately get to a final outcome. And you should not be shocked that both sides are going to have lawyers there. Both in these close Senate races and in the presidential contest.
Mitch McConnell: (08:47)
Well, Daniel the answer is, I don’t want to be disrespectful, but I’ve already answered it. The courts will decide disputes. That’s the way we do it in this country. Having close, disputed elections, is not unusual. It happens all the time. So I don’t think the president should be criticized for suggesting he may have some lawyers, because the other guys are certainly already doing that. And in a close election, you could anticipate in some of these states, you’re going to end up in court. It’s the American way.
Mitch McConnell: (09:33)
Well, I’m not sure whether I’ll need to or not. We don’t know who won the presidential race yet. We’ll see what the American people decide they want their government to be. I don’t know whether I’m going to be the majority leader or the minority leaders as I’ve told you. I’ve been both. Majority is better. But we’re awaiting the judgment of the American people. Now in the Senate, there is a chance we will know by the end of the day. I’m told we’re more likely to get a definitive answer, and this could be incorrect by the way, but I’m told we’re more likely to get a definitive answer in North Carolina and Maine by the end of the day, than we might be able to get a final answer in Michigan or whether or not we’re going to have to run off to in Georgia instead of one.
Mitch McConnell: (10:34)
Well, voter behavior is obviously impacted by the campaigns that you put on. And we tried to make as an aggressive argument as we could, that my opponent was pretty much in line with where Democrats are nationally on every issue. And you heard me say over and over again, that’s certainly not where I am and that I allow Kentucky to punch above its weight. So I think it was a pretty clear choice for the people of Kentucky. And I’m glad they decided that our arguments were better than hers.
Mitch McConnell: (11:23)
It’s been an amazing transformation over my time in the Senate. When I first ran, by the way I won by one vote a precinct in 1984. If you drew a line from Bowling Green to Owensboro, there wasn’t a single Republican state representative or state Senator in all of that era of Kentucky, not one. Today, there’s not a single Democrat. And after yesterday’s election, that could almost be said all over Kentucky, except for our three largest counties. Jefferson, Fayette and Franklin. Eastern Kentucky did a complete transformation.
Mitch McConnell: (12:04)
I think that’s a legacy of president Obama’s war on coal, and then the popularity of the current president added onto that, has flipped counties that I used to get 40% if I was lucky in, to getting 60 and 70%. So yeah, I think Kentucky has undergone a political transformation. It was happening, but really speed it up after Obama and Trump. And the last indicator is registration, two and a half to one Democrat 36 years ago, almost even now. Registration is the last thing to change, change your voting behavior before you change your registration. Yeah.
Mitch McConnell: (13:20)
I agree. I’m disturbed by two things that I think we need to do better nationally. Number one, my hats off to him for Act Blue. I think it is an incredibly effective model to reach out to a lot of small donors and pull them together and target them in a particular direction. We were way behind on that model. We set up Win Red last year. Obviously did pretty well. I, for example, I had over a million donors, average donation, 35 bucks. But we are behind overall in this business of online fundraising, which harnesses small donors, which I think is a terrific model. So, that’s something we need to do better.
Mitch McConnell: (14:07)
Secondly, I’m disturbed by the loss of support in the suburbs. Nationwide, we saw it here. Although I must say we did win two seats, one back and one kept in the suburbs of this County. Whatever slide we witnessed last year in Northern Kentucky, I think I reversed that yesterday. So I think that turned out well from my point of view. But yeah, I think if you look at our situation, Republican situation nationally, I think we need to win back to the suburbs. We need to do better with college educated voters than we’re doing lately, and we needed to do better with women. So nothing’s perfect. We had overall, I think a better election than most people thought we were going to have across the country. But yeah, we have improvement we need to make.
Mitch McConnell: (15:13)
Well, you could argue they have the same problem. Why are they getting crushed and rural and small towns? These trends come and go. And if you’re smart about it and you try to correct your flaws and those are the things that I think we ought to improve on.
Mitch McConnell: (15:29)
Yeah. As I’ve said repeatedly in the last few months, we need another rescue package. The Senate goes back in session next Monday. Hopefully the partisan passions that prevented us from doing another rescue package will subside with the election. And I think we need to do it, and I think we needed to do it before the end of the year. As you noticed, we had some big differences about what to do. The speaker laid out a two and a half trillion dollar package with all kinds of things that I felt were simply unrelated to the subject. I laid on the Senate floor, not once, but twice a half a trillion dollars. We can all remember when that was a lot of money, targeting the school situation, their need to replenish the PPP small loan program, which has been an enormous success. 50,000 Kentucky businesses drew down $5.2 billion, huge success.
Mitch McConnell: (16:47)
They need to be replenished. And we need another round for hospitals because clearly, the coronavirus has not gone. In fact, we’ve got it worse now than we had it in the spring, I believe. And I think that’s true in a lot of other states. So I think that’s job one when we get back, hopefully with a more co-operative situation than we had. And we also need to fund the government and the speaker and I agree that we ought to do an omnibus appropriation bill and do it in December, no matter who wins the election. It’s a basic function of government that we haven’t handled very well in recent years. And we need to do that. So we have two big things to do here before the end of the year. And it won’t surprise you to know there some more judges to do. Won’t surprise any of you. And we’re going to continue to confirm lifetime appointments to the courts as well.
Mitch McConnell: (18:05)
Well, we’ve already sent Louisville, I believe. I don’t know. Terry, do you have the figures? 137 million or something like that? Yeah. We did $150 billion for state and local government and the CARES Act, which basically was written by myself and my team. And it’s a possibility that we will do more for state and local government. Many state and local governments are doing very well. So what happened as a result of that state and local log that we put on the CARES Act is some sites are flush, others aren’t. And we need to look at the formula. If we do that again, we need to look at the formula and make sure there’s a real need there. And also we need to make sure we’re not basically allowing state and local governments to cover up or cover over preexisting problems like pension problems and other problems that they’ve created for themselves.
Mitch McConnell: (19:04)
And so it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. This is a big item for the Democrats, as you can imagine. And they’re still going to control the House and we’ll have to reach some kind of agreement, but it’s not something that my side is very, very fond of because it’s hard to figure out who really needs it and who doesn’t.
Mitch McConnell: (19:39)
Well, until we get the vaccine, we’re still here. You all have seen me emphasize wearing a mask and practice social distancing since May, everywhere I go. And this vaccine is not going to go away until we kill it. So that’s job one. We’ve already allocated an enormous amount of money toward testing, treatment and vaccines. We may need to do more in the next rescue package, because ultimately you got to kill the vaccine before we get back to normal. There’s no other way to get back to normal.
Mitch McConnell: (20:18)
You can keep pumping money into the economy forever, and it won’t solve the problem until we kill the virus. Having said that, there are other sectors that need help. And I outlined what I think is appropriate, but I don’t get to make the final decision. We have to deal with the Democrats. And what I’m saying is I think now that the election’s over the need is there and we need to sit down and work this out and state and local could end up being a part of it. I’d like to see it done a little more skillfully than simply providing borrowed money for everyone regardless of their need.
Mitch McConnell: (21:16)
Well, Morgan, it depends on state law as to how they do this. Some states I think have adopted a system that strikes me as kind of absurd. There are a couple of states that literally send out ballots to everybody on the voter rolls. They do that in Washington, DC. I know people in Washington who live in rental apartments, who’ve received ballots addressed to six different people who used to live there at some point. To me, that guarantees the opportunity for fraud. Most states don’t do that. There is some verification process that you are who you are.
Mitch McConnell: (22:04)
And so it’s not a massive problem, but there are systems states can adopt. For example, California has what’s called ballot harvesting, which you can go around and collect ballots from people and turn it in for them. Unfortunately, most states don’t do that. And my personal view is it’s not other federal government’s business how states decide to conduct their election. I think that has been for 230 years a state decision. And we have to adapt to how states choose to do it. Perfectly okay to complain about a particular system, if you don’t like it. But ultimately if there’s a dispute over it, it’s going to be resolved in the court.
Mitch McConnell: (23:02)
Well, the results are accepted when you get finality in 50 separate states. And the finality decision is up to states. We’re waiting whether I’m going to be majority leader or not. The outcome of a state decision in North Carolina, a state decision in Maine, a state decision in Michigan and a state decision in Georgia.
Mitch McConnell: (23:48)
Do I feel what? Well in March and April, we came together and passed the CARES Act without a single dissenting vote. So it’s not impossible for us to get together. As I’ve said repeatedly, I think the closer we got to the election, the more that interfered with getting an outcome. The election is over. We don’t know for sure all the outcomes, but hopefully we will by next week when we go back in session and we need to sit down and talk to each other, like we did back in March and April and address the problem. And I’m confident we will, no matter who ends up running the government. No matter who’s in the White House, no matter who’s … I think we know the Democrats are going to run the House. That no matter who runs the Senate, it’s time to overcome all that and get results.
Mitch McConnell: (24:57)
You’re trying to get me to answer a question. Well, obviously, I’d a lot rather be the majority leader and the minority leader. It appears that as of today, at this moment that we are in a pretty good position in North Carolina and Maine. We may, as I said earlier, know later in the day, how that turns out. If my math is correct, if we win in North Carolina and Maine, I’m still the offensive coordinator, but we may know by the end of the day. And then there were others that are still to play out. One or two specials in Georgia and Michigan Senate race. We have a fabulous candidate up there who’s got a real shot.
Mitch McConnell: (26:02)
Well, I sure hope so. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said last year, not Mitch McConnell, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said last year, nine is the right number. Talk about de-stabilizing the courts. Imagine if you started every time the power shifted, you just start adding new judges? They’d have no credibility at all. A terrible idea. And I was disappointed in my old friend, Joe Biden for not just ruling it out. Which surprised me, frankly.
Mitch McConnell: (26:50)
I think the president ran a heck of a race. Everybody was writing him off that he had no shot and he went on and literally worked himself to death for the last two months with multiple rallies every day, and turned it into a cliff hanger, against everybody’s expectation. So it was an extraordinary campaign. I think it also helped us in our Senate races, the places with the exception of Maine, the places where we have the best chance of winning or places where it looks like he I’m going to take one more. And I think we’ve probably covered it.
Mitch McConnell: (27:26)
Yeah. I never comment about security. As you all know, that goes with this position and I’ve had it since I was whip almost 20 years ago. And my wife, it goes with this position of cabinet members. But beyond that, we don’t comment on security issues. Okay, thanks everyone.