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McConnell signal to Republican Senate candidates: Distance from Trump if necessary

July 31, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wears a mask as he walks through a hallway at the U.S. Capitol May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Senate is back in session for the second week after a pause due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Mitch McConnell is allowing Republican Senate candidates to do whatever it takes to salvage their campaigns ahead of what Republicans increasingly fear could be a devastating election for their party.

Washington (CNN)Sen. Mitch McConnell is allowing Republican Senate candidates to do whatever it takes to salvage their campaigns ahead of what Republicans increasingly fear could be a devastating election for their party.

In recent weeks, the Senate majority leader has become so concerned over Republicans losing control of the Senate that he has signaled to vulnerable GOP senators in tough races that they could distance themselves from the President if they feel it is necessary, according to multiple senior Republicans including a source close to McConnell.

"These vulnerable senators can't afford to explicitly repudiate Trump," said one senior Republican on Capitol Hill.

While some Republicans believe they are both in good shape, other GOP sources tell CNN those races are exceedingly tight and that both candidates' fortunes may ultimately depend on how Trump does on Election Day in both states.

Even if they lose control of the majority, Senate Republicans can effectively play defense against Democratic legislation with a large enough minority and a handful of moderate Democratic defectors.

"GOP major donors are redirecting money to the Senate races," said Fred Zeidman, a Republican donor from Texas.

Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist, said this kind of negotiating by endangered GOP senators in the stimulus bill "tells you everything you need to know" about the state of the election and the expectation that Trump is heading toward defeat.

It's unlikely McConnell or Republican Senate candidates will rebuke Trump directly, even if the President continues to trail Biden.

Republican operatives say that in places like North Carolina and Arizona, the fate of incumbent GOP senators will be irrevocably tied to Trump.

Scott Reed, the veteran Republican strategist who runs the Chamber of Commerce's political arm, sounded a hopeful note about the ability for first-term GOP senators like Gardner and Tillis to close the deal on reelection.

"The Presidential race will tighten and this Senate class of 2014 is sharp, strong and well versed at winning," said Reed, who echoed other Republicans in giving Collins the best shot of the four vulnerable GOP senators of winning reelection.

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