McConnell Sees Kavanaugh Fight as ‘Adrenaline Shot’ for Midterms

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation is giving GOP candidates a well-timed "adrenaline shot" for the rest of the midterm election campaign, but he’s taking nothing for granted.

“The timing of it couldn’t have been better," McConnell said regarding the confirmation battle Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News. "It’s purely accidental but it couldn’t have been better."

With the battle for control of the Senate entering the last three weeks, McConnell said it’s coming down to a handful of races in states including Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee and Florida.

Republicans benefit from the election map that has Democrats defending 26 seats compared with just nine for Republicans, but McConnell said he’s not assuming victory because Democrats need to gain just two seats to take the majority.

Still, he said, “I’d rather be in our position going into it, up 51-49, than their’s. It is a good map.”

Growing Economy

Another plus for Republicans, he said, is the growing economy and the boost it helped provide to President Donald Trump’s approval ratings. While public approval of Trump has generally been lackluster, his rating has risen recently in the Gallup weekly tracking poll, reaching 44 percent in the latest survey released Monday.

McConnell said the broad tax cut passed by the Republican-led Congress in December 2017 is particularly popular in states Trump won in 2016 that are also key in this year’s Senate races.

“It’s probably not the biggest issue, but I think it’s generally helpful,” McConnell said.

Even if they keep the chamber, Republicans could have trouble advancing their agenda because Democrats are favored to pick up the 23 seats they need to gain control of the House.

Republicans have gained in recent polls on some of the closest contests, a bump that follows Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Analysts say Republicans have a significant chance to pick up the seats of incumbent Democratic Senators Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Other Democrats at risk include Jon Tester of Montana, Tina Smith of Minnesota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

On the flip side, Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada is seen as the party incumbent most at risk, while Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is also battling a well-funded Democratic challenger. The open seat of retiring GOP Senator Jeff Flake is a top potential Democratic target, as is the seat of retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.