Trump ad­viser: GOP could lose Cruz’s seat

Bud­get chief Mul­vaney sug­gests in­cum­bent sen­a­tor isn’t ‘lik­able.’

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Alexan­der Burns and Ken­neth P. Vo­gel

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bud­get chief, Mick Mul­vaney, ex­pressed con­fi­dence to Repub­li­can donors Satur­day that the party would over­come a Demo­cratic “move­ment of hate” in Novem­ber, but he ac­knowl­edged Repub­li­cans could lose races where they have nom­i­nated can­di­dates who are not seen as “lik­able” enough, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Speak­ing at the closed-door meet­ing in New York along­side Ronna McDaniel, chair­woman of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, Mul­vaney in­sisted Democrats and the me­dia were ex­ag­ger­at­ing the po­lit­i­cal threat fac­ing Repub­li­cans this fall: “They want you to think there’s a blue wave when there’s not,” he said, ac­cord­ing to an au­dio­tape of his re­marks that was ob­tained by The New York Times from a per­son at the meet­ing.

But Mul­vaney, who leads both the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get and the Con­sumer Fi­nan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau, con­ceded that Repub­li­cans had nom­i­nated poor can­di­dates in places and might strug­gle to de­fend a huge num­ber of open House

seats where Repub­li­can in­cum­bents de­cided not to run for re-elec­tion.

He pointed to the Se­nate races in Texas and Florida as ex­am­ples where can­di­date qual­ity could be de­ci­sive. In Florida, Repub­li­cans have nom­i­nated Gov. Rick Scott to chal­lenge Sen. Bill Nel­son, a Demo­crat, and polls show the race is close.

In Texas, Cruz holds a mod­est polling lead over Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Demo­crat who has raised enor­mous amounts of money on­line.

“There’s a very real pos­si­bil­ity we will win a race for Se­nate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Se­nate, OK?” Mul­vaney said. “I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a pos­si­bil­ity. How lik­able is a can­di­date? That still counts.”

And Mul­vaney al­luded to 2017’s spe­cial elec­tion for Se­nate in Alabama and sug­gested Trump re­mained be­wil­dered at his party’s de­feat there. The Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, Doug Jones, pre­vailed in a stun­ning up­set over the Repub­li­can, Roy Moore, a po­lar­iz­ing for­mer judge who was ac­cused of once prey­ing on teenage girls.

“The pres­i­dent asks me all the time, ‘Why did Roy Moore lose?’” Mul­vaney said. “That’s easy. He was a ter­ri­ble can­di­date.”

Spokes­men for both Mul­vaney and McDaniel did not im­me­di­ately com­ment on their re­marks.

McDaniel, too, noted that Repub­li­cans were fac­ing po­lit­i­cal head­winds in some re­spects, though she of­fered an up­beat prog­no­sis over­all. She said Demo­cratic vot­ers ap­peared to have more en­ergy than Repub­li­cans at this point, but said Repub­li­cans had a for­mi­da­ble and well-fi­nanced voter-turnout machine to com­pen­sate.

“It does cost, right now, more money to en­gage our vot­ers, to get them knowl­edge of the elec­tion,” McDaniel said. “They have their en­ergy. We have our in­fra­struc­ture.”

Democrats, Mul­vaney ar­gued, had so far failed to mo­bi­lize vot­ers the way Repub­li­cans did in 2010. He said Democrats did not have a uni­fy­ing is­sue for their cam­paigns, the way Repub­li­cans har­nessed op­po­si­tion to the Af­ford­able Care Act that year.

“It’s hard to draw peo­ple into a move­ment of hate,” Mul­vaney said, adding: “I don’t think I have seen, yet, peo­ple who used to be Repub­li­can or peo­ple who have never voted be­fore or haven’t voted in a long time, show­ing up at these events.”

But Mul­vaney nod­ded to the re­al­ity that House Repub­li­cans are on de­fense across a large stretch of the po­lit­i­cal map, be­cause of an ex­o­dus of long­time law­mak­ers from the cham­ber.

“I don’t know how many seats we’ve got this year, but there’s got to be, how many?” Mul­vaney said. “Twenty? Thirty? Forty?”

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