Trump adviser: GOP could lose Cruz’s seat
Budget chief Mulvaney suggests incumbent senator isn’t ‘likable.’
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?”