WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- KY) appeared to freeze up during a news conference. It’s the second time within weeks he’s had a similar incident. It’s now sparking fresh questions of not only his future in the Senate but how the upcoming elections could look.
In next year’s elections, 33 seats in the closely divided Senate will be on the ballot. Including Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey’s (D- PA) seat, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow’s (D- MI) seat and others in some of these battleground states. But for now, the Cook Political Report believes at least those two states are likely to remain in the democrats favor for those senate seats.
“The Senate is actually the republicans for the taking next year,” said Todd Belt, professor and director of political management at George Washington University. Belt said democrats have 23 seats to defend comparing to the ten for republicans.
“Meaning its gonna be much easier for republicans to peel off a couple of seats,” said Belt. ”Remember they only need two to gain control of the Senate or even just one if they gain the presidency and vice presidency. It’s really in republicans’ hands, they don’t want to mess this one up. They have some real golden opportunities like Ohio and Montana perhaps even Arizona to get those seats they need.”
While we still could potentially see some senators announcing their retirement, one in particular has become the focus. This week, McConnell froze up suddenly during a news conference. It’s the second similar episode we’ve seen on camera in recent weeks. His office said he felt lightheaded during the news conference and as a safety measure they will visit with a doctor.
Earlier this year, McConnell told reporters he’s not going anywhere suggesting he doesn’t have any plans to step down. But this second incident has now intensified questions not only about his health as well as his future in the Senate and his leadership role.
“In the Senate there’s a sort of gentleman’s and gentlewoman’s agreement you don’t ask someone to step down,” said Belt. “None of us knows what’s going on behind closed doors but its interesting to note that the calls for him to step down are coming from the House and other members of the party who are not in the Senate. So if there are whispers going around saying maybe it’s time, those aren’t coming from the Senate publicly yet. So what that means is there are a lot of senators who think McConnell has done a really good job as the republican leader particularly getting states that they needed as well as fundraising and recruiting good candidates. So McConnell has really high stature within the republican party. I think it may take more than this for them to quietly step aside.”