Heading into this year, it looked like that no matter what kind of wave happened in November, the Republicans were going to hold onto the Senate. Democrats are defending 25 seats in November to just eight Republican-held seats. Ten of those Democratic seats are in states Trump won, and just one Republican—Dean Heller—is up for re-election in a state Hillary Clinton won.
But the Republicans are really fucking up as of late, and holding onto the Senate isn’t as much of a certainty anymore. On Wednesday, for example, a poll showed Democrat Beto O’Rourke just three points behind incumbent Republican Ted Cruz in the liberal stronghold of Texas.
Reportedly, Senate Majority Leader and star of the 2002 film The Master of Disguise Mitch McConnell is resorting to keep his majority intact. According to a new report from the conservative Washington Examiner, he’s got a new a plan to win those Democratic seats: keeping the incumbents from campaigning. Emphasis mine:
McConnell this month began threatening Senate Democrats with longer workweeks if they continue to slow-walk the confirmation of President Trump’s nominees. Marc Short, White House point man for legislative affairs, told a small gathering of Republican donors this week that the majority leader plans to use this tactic in the weeks ahead to squeeze Democrats running for re-election in red states.
“McConnell wants to increase the days the Senate is open for business to keep” Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri “tied up from campaigning,” a Republican donor told the Washington Examiner, relaying what Short communicated.
The meeting, organized by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP campaign arm, was not a fundraiser. It was made available to some major Republican donors but no money was solicited in exchange for attending, the contributor said.
Considering McConnell’s recent record when it comes to involving himself in Senate elections, dumping money into fake-local super PACs and keeping Democrats off the campaign trail so their Republican challengers can blast them for not caring enough to spend time in their states are probably smarter ways for him to influence the outcome of elections.
Still, this is just another instance of the McConnell Theory of Elections and Governing in action: when you’re losing or it looks like you might lose, just go ahead and change the rules instead.