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How McConnell is maneuvering to keep the Senate in the hands of the GOP and lead Trump

Four months later, McConnell set aside precious time and scheduled votes on the bill even though it wasn’t on the radar for much of Washington, paving the way for it to pass – and for Gardner and Daines to cut campaign announcements. advertising the result.

“Not only was it the right thing to do from a good government point of view, but sure – he should have helped Cory and Steve, they worked a lot,” McConnell told CNN this week.

The episode illustrated McConnell’s intense focus on keeping his perch at the top of the Senate and keeping the majority in the hands of the GOP, leading one of the most tumultuous elections of his long political career as he found a way to take advantage of having a Republican in the White House ̵

1; – even one who has a penchant for putting GOP senators in a jam over and over.

Asked if he thinks Trump is a stark positive for Republican Senate candidates on the ticket, McConnell just says, “We’ll find out. It’s something we’ll only know the day after the election.”

Trump signs conservation funding law that will help national parks
While he often evades the latest Trump controversy, as he did Wednesday for the president’s jaw-dropping admission to reporter Bob Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the coronavirus, McConnell has called for Trump’s help in critical ways necessary to hold the Senate, too. privately persuading the President takes a step forward to strengthen the position of the GOP leader’s favorite candidate in Kansas, a move that helped him win a high-risk primary last month.

And while he tackled one of the toughest Senate maps in years, with 23 GOP seats in cycle versus 12 for Democrats, the Kentucky Republican tapped into his network of pocket donors to pour millions into his super PAC well. funded and sought to narrow the Democrats’ online fundraising advantage by directing millions more to his vulnerable GOP colleagues. He reviews every announcement that hits the airwaves in key races every day, providing advice and advice to his colleagues on messages for his party.

And with the power to set the agenda in the Senate, McConnell has taken steps to isolate its vulnerable members from the onslaught of Democratic attacks, culminating in a vote Thursday to adopt a GOP economic recovery plan after the Republican leader said in private to his members by teleconference that such a vote is critical for Republican senators hoping to keep their seats in November.

In Wednesday’s interview, McConnell said it’s “just an extremely challenging cycle to keep” the majority and said it’s a “50-50 situation,” arguing that races in Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina , Maine and Georgia are too close to call.

“That’s why I describe it as a stab fight in an alley,” McConnell said of the battle for the Senate. “Everyone takes it out.”

And that’s why his allies say McConnell can’t afford to disagree with Trump, given the president’s popularity with the grassroots and his habit of responding to any slightest perception, creating politically damaging distractions and undermining the long-term view. GOP leader date that the best position of the party is to maintain unity.

But McConnell has found a way to use Trump’s help to his advantage: by convincing him to help his favorite candidates who have a better chance of winning in November.

Every month in the White House, McConnell guides Trump state by state through the Senate map, and one topic has been the subject of extensive discussion with the president: the Kansas Senate primary. For much of the year, GOP leaders feared that if Kansas voters named staunch conservative Kris Kobach, the Democrats would have a big advantage in taking the seat in the fall and significantly increase their chances of overthrowing the House.
A Democrat has become far less likely to win a Senate seat in Kansas

Kobach’s rival in the primary, Rep. Roger Marshall, was the subject of attack announcements conducted by the conservative group Club for Growth, something Republican leaders feared would pave the way for a victory in the Kobach primary. So McConnell suggested to Trump: Ask the Club for Growth to end that hype.

Sitting in the Oval Office, Trump called the group’s chairman, David McIntosh, put him on speakerphone in the Oval Office, and sent out a blunt message: “Stop splitting yourself,” Marshall said Trump, according to two sources familiar with the call. Trump told the group leader that McConnell was in the room listening.

Immediately thereafter, the Club for Growth halted its massive hype and Marshall later emerged victorious in the primary, giving Republican leaders more hope of retaining the seat in November and retaining the Senate.

Recalling that episode on Wednesday, McConnell said the incident “was an example of his collaboration,” referring to Trump.

“If you don’t name people who can appeal to the general election public, you lose,” McConnell said. “And so the president was helpful in working with me and making sure we had the right people named.”

McConnell: Senators “in danger” want a stimulus bill

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, McConnell tried to stay aligned with the Trump administration during Washington’s response, even after being condemned by Democrats for “pausing” for further relief measures after nearly $ 3 trillion. in emergency relief that passed this spring.

In mid-July, McConnell signaled that he was ready to move on to another aid package, but after weeks of talks with the White House and fellow GOP senators, the $ 1 trillion plan he unveiled sparked heavy pushbacks. from several of his colleagues and Trump refused to approve it. McConnell never tabled that bill for a vote and allowed top officials in the Trump administration to seek a deal with Democratic leaders, which did not yield any results.

With millions of people still suffering from the economic crisis and some of his most vulnerable colleagues still eager to vote on a package, McConnell has sought to join his conference behind a new recovery bill. Along with top administration officials, McConnell called daily conference calls with his colleagues during the August intermission, hoping to get his party behind a lean proposal.

In private phone calls, some Republicans have been unsure whether there should be a vote on a GOP bill that has virtually no chance of becoming law.

But McConnell was clear there should be a vote and said he wants 51 of his colleagues to support the plan, something that would allow Republicans to argue that the Senate majority supports their approach even if it doesn’t take 60 votes to break a plan. filibuster due to democratic opposition to the plan.

In one call, McConnell told his colleagues that “100% of people who are at the top and are in any form of danger want a vote and want a successful vote,” according to one person on the call.

Democrats accused McConnell of simply instituting the vote to help its most vulnerable members, with minority leader Chuck Schumer accusing McConnell of engaging in a “cynical exercise”.

Yet Republicans claim McConnell is doing what he must – both for the country and to protect his party until November.

Asked about McConnell’s focus on retaining the Senate, Texas Senator John Cornyn, a member of the GOP leadership team who will address voters this fall, said, “I would say it’s a 24/7 operation. out of 7 for him. But that probably underestimates her. “

McConnell focuses on fundraising and intends to remain as a leader

McConnell himself is in the runoff in November, facing Amy McGrath, a well-funded former fighter pilot and race loser. But even as he’s rejecting a challenge from Democrats in his state, he’s heavily focused on key Senate seats vying for the fall.

And he’s regularly doing fundraising calls and Zoom meetings with donors to help his ally Senate Leadership Fund along with the Republican National Senatorial Committee, which is surpassing its previous fundraising records. Over the past decade, McConnell has cultivated a massive donor network, something he did to help the Senate Leadership Fund raise $ 117 million in cash through the end of July, more than two and a half times the amount raised to a similar point in the last cycle.

“We couldn’t be where we are financially without Leader McConnell’s disciplined and tireless promotion of our efforts to hold the Senate,” said Steven Law, who runs the super PAC.

McConnell said the group has been a “huge help” in competing against outside Democratic groups, saying it spends a “reasonable amount of time” pointing out its existence to “people who think holding the Senate is important.”

Additionally, McConnell, along with Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have sought to bridge the gap and reduce the benefit of Democrats’ online fundraising. And this cycle alone, according to a consultant, McConnell’s online fundraiser directed $ 3 million to his GOP colleagues.

It’s the kind of fundraiser that helped make the GOP leader a waste to stay on top of his position in the Republican Senate Conference, win or lose the majority, adding to his tenure as the longest-serving GOP leader in history, a position he has held since 2007.

Asked if he would try to remain as a leader of the GOP for six full years if he won his seventh term in November, McConnell said: “The elections for leadership last two years. I will definitely run for another term again and we will. look what the future holds “.

CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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