He kind of does have an issue there, doesn’t he. Take Pennsylvania, where New Jersey transplant Mehmet Oz isn’t just being wholly owned by Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on social media, he’s being owned in the polls. Which might have something to do with New Jersey, crudité, $70 T-shirts, and the fact that he doesn’t know the name of the place where Pennsylvanians do their food shopping or how many houses he owns (10). And Oz just can’t stop himself from digging.
Ohio’s great Republicans hope, JD Vance, has all but disappeared from the campaign trail. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan have been trading polling leads in the last few weeks, but the real issue for McConnell and team is that they’re going to have to invest there. The conservative Senate Leadership Fund has been forced to reserve $28 million in ad buys for the final weeks of the campaign. Republicans went into this general election Ohio assuming that Vance wouldn’t require any national funding.
Then there’s Georgia Republican nominee Herschel Walker, who has proven to be such a disaster a Republican PAC is running ads against him. It’s Georgia, which is still definitely not blue, so the polls are tight there. That’s with minimum public exposure of Walker. Just wait until the debates. If Walker finally agrees to them, that is.
It’s not just the opens seats, though. Republicans incumbents aren’t distinguishing themselves, either. Sen. Ron Johnson is trailing Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes by 7 points in a Marquette University Law School released Wednesday, 51-44. Barnes is up 4 points on Johnson in a Fox News poll released Thursday, 49-45. Johnson isn’t doing himself any favors, stubbornly insisting on saying things out loud, in public, where God and everybody can hear how his mind works.
Then there’s Florida, where yet another Fox News poll this week has Sen. Marco Rubio trailing likely Democratic challenger Rep. Val Demmings. Not by a lot, 48 to 44. But that is not where a three-term incumbent wants to be less than three months ahead of an election. It’s not where McConnell wants anyone on his team to be at this point.
Yeah, McConnell’s remarks are about managing expectations. They’re also about reality. He’s got some really problematic candidates, as well as incumbents he’s been battling with for months on messaging. Meanwhile, new voter registration numbers in battleground states are demonstrating just how fired up women are about abortion.
He might be expectation-setting, but he’s right. Republicans do have a quality problem and it is giving him heartburn.
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