Key senate races in Florida and Texas, that have seen extremely close poll numbers, a large influx of outside money and controversial, sometimes false advertisements are among the races a top Trump adviser and the Republican National Committee chairwoman are quietly warning loyalists the party could lose.
Speaking behind closed doors to GOP donors in New York City on Saturday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel seemed to already be conducting damage control. They warned those in attendance that bad candidates and a lack of energy compared to Democratic voters could result in a large number of losses for Republicans come the November midterm elections, according to an audio recording obtained by The New York Times from a person at the meeting.
Mulvaney said there’s a “very real possibility” the party will only walk away with one win from the two key senate races in Florida and Texas.
“There’s a very real possibility we will win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate, O.K.?” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a possibility. How likable is a candidate? That still counts.”
Mulvaney reportedly used the two races to highlight candidate quality as the factor that could ultimately hurt Republicans.
In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott is challenging incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed the candidates at a dead-even tie. The battle between Nelson and Scott has become the most expensive senate race in the country.
In deep-red Texas, Congressman Beto O’Rourke is proving to be a real contender against incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Polls and fundraising how showed the two are virtually tied. Most recent polls have showed O’Rourke down a few points, but within the margins of error as the race continues to intensify.
Earlier this week, Cruz’s campaign released a misleading ad that falsely portrayed his candidate as someone who supports the burning of the American flag. Prior to that, the state’s Republican Party released a decades-old mugshot of O’Rourke that was taken after a drunk driving arrest.
“The president asks me all the time, ‘Why did Roy Moore lose?’ That’s easy. He was a terrible candidate,” said Mulvaney or Moore, who lost his Alabama senate bid after multiple accusers came forward with past child molestation claims against him.
But Mulvaney and McDaniel both reassured those present that the threat of Democrats regaining control of the House or Senate after the midterms was not as likely as Democrats and the media have portrayed.
“They want you to think there’s a blue wave when there’s not,” Mulvaney said.
McDaniels warned of a lack of emery coming from within the Republican Party.
“It does cost, right now, more money to engage our voters, to get them knowledge of the election,” McDaniel said. “They have their energy. We have our infrastructure.”
Given the president’s low approval numbers and constant scandals, Democratic candidates have largely been able to campaign as anti-Trump in attempts to motivate their base to vote against him. Mulvaney pointed to that as one of the plausible reasons for a lack of energy in the GOP and an uptick among the left.
“It’s hard to draw people into a movement of hate,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think I have seen, yet, people who used to be Republican or people who have never voted before or haven’t voted in a long time, showing up at these events.”