McConnell warns GOP may not win Senate as group linked to him invests heavily in Ohio

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warns the GOP may not regain control of the Senate in November’s midterm elections — a cycle that would generally favor the party that is not not in power – as a McConnell-linked political action committee stages a rescue effort in the Ohio Senate race.

Asked Wednesday by Kentucky reporters about his midterm forecast, McConnell said there was “probably more of a chance of the House tumbling than the Senate.”

“Senate races are just different, they’re statewide, the quality of the candidates has a lot to do with the outcome,” he said, according to NBC News.

In a year when Republicans are expected to have the edge over Democrats, especially as President Biden’s approval ratings sag and inflation remains high, the GOP faces surprisingly tight Senate races in several states — even with Republican groups contributing huge sums of money to help struggling candidates.

Wednesday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee associated with McConnell, is investing $28 million in radio and television ads in Ohio in support of Republican Senate candidate JD Vance, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

The new pro-Vance ads will begin running after Labor Day, according to the newspaper, which noted that the ad buy marks a significant increase from the estimated $5 million National Republicans have poured into the race. from Ohio so far. In 2020, Trump won Ohio by about eight percentage points.

Yet polls have shown a remarkably tight race between Vance, a venture capitalist and author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tim Ryan, as they vie for the seat of Sen. Rob Portman (right). Vance’s main run was partly finance by billionaire Peter Thiel, who previously employed Vance at his venture capital firm. But Vance was reraised 4 to 1 by Ryan in the second quarter of 2022.

Ryan, a 10-term congressman who ran for president in 2020, is a seasoned activist and moderate Democrat willing to break with party leadership on certain policies, including trade and China.

In response to the GOP spending, Ryan tweeted, “If they’re so focused on our race, that means we need to be doing something right. Here is my message for Mitch McConnell, JD Vance and the rest of the GOP: Bring it on.

Ryan also sent out a fundraising appeal alluding to the GOP investment and Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign appearance on Friday with Vance, writing, “National Republicans are freaking out after *several* polls have shown this race at an impasse – and we expect DeSantis to attack me personally. This is the start of Mitch McConnell’s new strategy to destroy my campaign.

Republicans must win a seat to capture a majority in a 50-50 Senate in which Vice President Harris is the deciding vote. The heavy investment in a GOP-leaning state for a Republican-held seat comes as a surprise to the party 82 days from Election Day. And while the GOP is still favored to take the Ohio seat in November, the close race forces the party to spend money defensively, funds that could otherwise be invested in contesting Senate seats held by Democrats, like Nevada and Colorado.

So far, the Senate Leadership Fund has also spent large sums of money on the Georgia and Pennsylvania Senate races, investing $37 million and $34.1 million, respectively. But those races are considered more competitive for Republicans.

In Georgia, Republicans are seeking to unseat Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D), whose victory in January 2021 helped Democrats secure their narrow Senate majority. However, GOP nominee Herschel Walker — who has come under scrutiny for past lies and revelation of several children who had not yet been publicly disclosed – trailing Warnock in the polls.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, has teased his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz for buying “rawness” and his roots in New Jersey. (Video: The Washington Post)

In the Senate race to replace incumbent Pennsylvania Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R), recent polls show Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) holding a double-digit lead over Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, a famous doctor of television. Oz’s campaign has spent much of the past week fending off attacks on the number of homes it owns and resisting online ridicule over a recently resurfaced video in which Oz botches a channel’s name of local grocery stores while supposedly buying ingredients for “raw vegetables.”

The McConnell-linked group’s spending comes as the Republican National Senate Committee (NRSC) shifts its TV ad spending to several battleground states, canceling millions of dollars in ad bookings with plans to reallocate investments through spending coordinated with campaigns.

A Democrat who tracks media buying, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide the data, said the NRSC cut more than $7 million in TV ad bookings in Pennsylvania this month, nearly $3 million in Arizona and more than $2 million in Wisconsin and Nevada. Another Democrat who tracks media buys confirmed similar numbers. Ad booking changes were first reported by the New York Times earlier this week.

The change comes as GOP Senate candidates in some of those states have fallen behind their Democratic opponents in fundraising, which could hamper their ability to follow the airwaves and promote their own candidacies. In Wisconsin, meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (right) raised about $7 million to Democratic nominee Mandela Barnes’ roughly $2 million in the second quarter of the year, before Barnes’ main rivals do not withdraw.

This week, Barnes held a slight lead over Johnson, a Marquette Law School Survey found.

Barnes has a 51% to 44% lead over Johnson in the poll, bigger than Barnes’s two-point margin in June. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Democrats view the Wisconsin race as one of their best opportunities to land a Senate seat.

Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.

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