According to a Friday report from CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is concerned that the Republican Party might lose control of the upper chamber in November.
Citing multiple sources briefed on the matter, the publication reported that McConnell is allowing GOP candidates to “do whatever it takes to salvage their campaigns” ahead of the November elections.
McConnell has reportedly signaled to vulnerable Republican incumbents that they can distance themselves from President Donald Trump, whose apparent failures amid the coronavirus pandemic appear to have hurt the GOP’s chances of wielding significant power in the U.S. Congress.
However, the president remains exceptionally popular among conservative voters, which has forced senators to “walk a tightrope” as to not alienate the voting base.
“These vulnerable senators can’t afford to explicitly repudiate Trump. They just need to show they are independent on issues important in their states,” a source told CNN.
Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber, but at least six incumbents are thought to be vulnerable. Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona and Cory Gardner of Colorado will have to face strong Democratic challengers.
Some insiders are reportedly also concerned about Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
But every seat matters. In case Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, wins the White House, Republicans need to maintain a fairly large minority in order to be able to use the filibuster and obstruct Biden.
“Even if we lose the majority, it matters that we have 49 seats. If we have 45, we can’t stop (with) the filibuster. Every seat counts,” an insider said.
According to Republican donor Fred Zeidman, major party backers are focused on preserving the Senate “firewall.”
“We have got to make sure that we hold the Senate no matter who is elected president,” Zeidman said, adding that he is fine with incumbents distancing themselves from Trump.
“They are being elected to represent a state, so they ought to have the freedom to represent the people who are voting for them,” he stated.
As CNN noted, there are already signs that senators are seeking to distance themselves from the commander-in-chief.
For instance, in a recent ad, Collins touted her success in reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats, while Gardner highlighted his work with regards to protecting the environment.
McConnell has publicly broken with Trump as well. Notably, he has promoted face masks, urging voters to wear them to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
Earlier this week, when Trump floated delaying the 2020 election, dozens of Republicans rejected the idea.