Election 2020

Top House GOP: 'We May Lose a Few Seats,' but 'Majority's Pretty Secure at This Point'

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) speaks in the Capitol's Rayburn Room during an enrollment ceremony for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act on July 14, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

A senior House Republican said this morning that he believes the GOP majority in Congress is “pretty secure at this point” because people logging protest votes for third-party candidates in the presidential race will still follow their usual voting patterns down-ballot.

Senators like Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) don’t seem to be getting pulled down by Donald Trump’s poll numbers, it was noted to Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a deputy majority whip, on MSNBC.

Cole, the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he’s seeing “very much the same phenomenon” on the House side.

“I think partly because, frankly, both these candidates are pretty unpopular. Hillary Clinton is going to have a hard time pulling people in, in a way, when she’s at 34 favorable and a 51 unfavorable. I also think the other presidential candidates, [Gary] Johnson and [Jill] Stein, break up, if you will, the vote at the top and people may well vote for those candidates in protest and then revert to their normal pattern down ballot,” he said.

“Now, it’s still going to be tough sledding for Republicans. It’s the largest Republican majority since 1928. We hold 25, 26 seats that President Obama carried last time. But I still think the odds are we’ll hold the House. We may lose a few seats, as we did in 2012, but I think the majority’s pretty secure at this point.”

Asked about the minority vote, Cole, one of two Native Americans serving in Congress, acknowledged “we don’t have nearly enough African-Americans in the Republican Party.”

“There is an effort by the Republican National Committee to reach out,” he said. “Look, this is done, frankly, more by incumbents than it’s done by challengers or party organization. And because, you know, it’s hard to show up in a minority community two or three or four months before an election and say, hey, vote for me, you know, things will be different. You have to do it after you’ve won usually. And if you see a lot of our members, a lot of our governors in particular run considerably better in these communities.”

“…I think there are millions of African-American and Hispanic conservatives that we just simply haven’t made a connection with. That’s our fault, not theirs.”

He added of the African-American vote: “We should not be losing that vote 95 to 5.”

“There are millions of African-Americans that are conservatives, that are evangelical in their faith, that served the country in the military, that are small-business people,” the congressman said. “We have a lot to say to those people. We haven’t done a very good job of taking that message into those communities. When we do, we’ll start to change the numbers. You may not win the communities, but you don’t have to lose them 95 to 5. There’s a big difference between getting beat 65 to 35 and 95 to 5.”

Cole said when Trump delivers his speech on illegal immigration Wednesday, the nominee should “lay out a pretty clear vision of what it is, you know, that he’s proposing and stick with it — I don’t think moving around helps you very much.”

“Now, you know, this last week may well have been necessary to get himself to whatever position he’s going to assume… Americans are pretty compassionate towards people that have been here for a while, long time, played by the rules, that they know are good citizens. They’re sort of grudging about it. They know you broke the law to get here. They expect you to pay some price for that. But the big thing is to make sure that the borders are secure and that the problem doesn’t continue to fester. And I don’t have a lot of faith in Hillary Clinton on that. They do think that Trump is serious on that point.”