WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was leaning on historical precedence today in weighing whether or not the presidential race will hurt GOP chances of holding on to control of Congress.
McConnell was asked at a news conference today why he never talked about Donald Trump while calling on Democrats to answer questions about Hillary Clinton.
“Because I choose not to,” McConnell replied.
He told reporters that he wanted to focus on “what this majority has done” in the Senate, “and my hope that we have a case to make to the American people that it’s important to continue the majority.”
“Exactly what impact the presidential race is going to have is really unpredictable. Let me give you a little history lesson,” he continued. “You know, Nixon beat McGovern in 49 out of 50 states. Republicans lost their seats in the Senate. Reagan beat Mondale in 49 out of 50 states. Republicans lost their seats in the Senate. Bill Clinton got reelected. We gained two seats in the Senate.”
“In 2008, it was a sweep. President Obama not only won, Democrats had a great day in the Senate, a great day in the House. Reagan in 1980, even though he didn’t take the House, basically controlled the House because they were still conservative Democrats in those days after the 1980 election.”
So, McConnell continued, “we’ve seen all kinds of presidential elections in which — some, in which, the presidential campaign seem to have no impact on down ballot, and others, in which it seemed to have an impact on down ballot.”
“So I don’t think we’ll know the answer to that question until the day after the election,” he added. “…But no matter who does win in November, we still have the same government in place until the end of the year.”
McConnell said senators, who are leaving for recess until Election Day, “need to accomplish as much as we can for the American people in the limited amount of time we have left.”
On the House side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) today reminded reporters that “nobody thought we were going to win at this point in 2006, and it turned into a wave.”
“So, it’s like saying ‘do you see a wave.’ We’re not even at the beach. So, let us take this thing down the road and then we’ll see where it is. But I think that we are all in agreement, including Steny [Hoyer], that we’re going to win very many seats. And some of it, as he said, depends on how big the margin is for Hillary Clinton,” Pelosi said.
She added that “the gift that keeps on giving on the other side” is Trump’s statements that “help register voters.”
“They help mobilize at the grassroots level. They help raise money,” Pelosi added. “They help us differentiate in messaging.”