Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa told Fox News on Friday that Mitch McConnell’s glum warning about the GOP’s Senate prospects in the midterms were an effort “to wake people up.” The Kentucky Republican Senator had said on Thursday, “I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different. They’re statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
Many interpreted this as the minority leader attempting to downplay expectations, and were not pleased:
Mitch McConnell is the top elected Republican in the country. He has an obligation to immediately and dramatically improve his performance of these obvious, basic, and rudimentary political skills and duties. This isn't rocket science.https://t.co/hQO2JLwJGp
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 19, 2022
But Grassley painted a rosier picture as he attended the Iowa State Fair:
We are going to take back the majority because of the fact that the president’s approval rating is under 40 [percent] and all these problems with the economy, people’s pocket books are being robbed every day because of Biden inflation.
He also defended his colleague McConnell by describing what he thinks his intentions were:
I think that the motive that McConnell would have would be that he wants to wake people up to the fact that this is an important election coming up and that you better be on your toes, both as a candidate, and people are supporting Republicans, or maybe we wouldn’t want to win control of the United States Senate.
My colleague Levon Satamian points out that other Republicans like Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) are also downplaying the party’s chances of retaking the Senate. His analysis:
The messaging here could mean two things — either they are saying this to encourage the GOP base to go out in droves and vote for GOP candidates — or they are already throwing in the towel and have given up due to some discouraging polls.
RealClearPolitics is showing a virtual dead heat in its polls, with eight Senate seats in extremely tight races. FiveThirtyEight’s polling meanwhile shows that “Democrats are slightly favored to win the Senate” (italics theirs).
Grassley seemed to also be throwing a little shade at candidates (and voters!) in his next comments:
But he [McConnell] needs to have people help by voting, help by getting votes out and help by contributing to the candidates, and most importantly, the candidates working just as hard as they can.
In Grassley’s mind, the number one issue for voters this fall is inflation, which not everyone agrees with:
It won’t only be what I hear at the state fair, but what I’ve heard in my county meetings that I hold regularly. Inflation is number one. Some people call it cost of living, saying gas prices. And the fact is, the president is not enforcing law at the border. It just irritates people. You can’t come to America without our permission. And we’ve had 2 million people just willy-nilly cross the border.
Grassley showed loyalty to McConnell by claiming that Mitch was just “trying to wake people up,” and he showed some needed optimism in reminding voters that inflation is real and that they need to vote out those responsible for it. McConnell shrinks in comparison, as his depressing outlook does nothing to fire up voters and certainly doesn’t “wake them up.” In fact, it could prove to have exactly the opposite result as citizens ask themselves, “what’s the point?” and stay home on election day.
Bad move, Mitch.