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Mitch McConnell's $200 million race for control of the Senate — "The Takeout"

Steven Law on "The Takeout"
Steven Law on "The Takeout" — 9/16/2022 46:14

If you had over $200 million to spend, how would you spend it? 

That's the question Steven Law, president of Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), is confronting this fall. It's his job to dole out the unlimited donations his organization receives to bolster Republican chances of taking back the Senate.

The SuperPAC, which is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, cannot coordinate directly with campaigns, but it will spend heavily on races (mostly TV ads) based on polling and how much those campaigns have raised themselves.

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There are 35 Senate seats in play in November, with the most competitive races in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

Law was this week's guest on "The Takeout," hosted by CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett. They spoke Tuesday afternoon.

Echoing McConnell's recent comments that it's more likely that it's more likely that control of the House will flip to Republicans than is the case for the Senate this November,  Law said he, too,  thinks Democrats will hold their narrow majority in the Senate amid recent GOP headwinds like the Supreme Court's abortion ruling and the FBI's executions of a search at Mar-a-Lago.

But Law is bullish on several races Republicans would need to win to eke out a 51-seat majority and says Republicans' best chance to flip Democrat-held seats are in Nevada and perhaps surprisingly, New Hampshire. 

"In Nevada, we have an unusually strong challenger. And in New Hampshire, we have a surprisingly weak incumbent," Law said. 

Adam Laxalt won the Republican primary in Nevada and polling shows incumbent New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan in a tight race. But Law's aspirations for a potential Granite State pick up may have dimmed slightly after Tuesday's primary. Chuck Morse, the mainstream GOP candidate Law indicated his group would support in a general election, narrowly lost to Donald Trump-allied candidate Donald Bolduc in the Republican primary this week.

White Mountain PAC, an outfit created two weeks before the New Hampshire primary, poured nearly $5 million into negative ads against Bolduc. It's not clear whether SLF or McConnell is behind White Mountain PAC in some capacity. The PAC will have to disclose its donors next week. 

Law said SLF is agnostic when it comes to Republican primaries. 

Pundits have also pointed to Georgia as a place where Republicans could unseat a Democrat - sitting Senator Raphael Warnock. 

Challenger Herschel Walker, despite a series of unflattering news stories over the summer, has remained within striking distance in recent polling. 

"I think he's no longer a weak candidate," Law said, citing Walker's work ethic on the campaign trail. "What he's doing is building the policy chops and everything else like that."

But SLF has also redirected some funds from at least one candidate who has been struggling, pulling back $8 million in ad buys from the Arizona race in August, where Trump-endorsed Blake Masters, a political neophyte, is challenging Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. SLF does not plan to go back on air in Arizona until October. 

Law downplayed any friction between McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott, of Florida, who have clashed over Republican midterm messaging. 

"I don't know that it matters at the end of the day," Law said, acknowledging that Republican-on-Republican tension "seems a little noisier" than past election cycles.

Law said he accepts the results of the 2020 election, despite "some chicanery" on the margins that did not impact the overall result.  He has faith that the 2022 election results will reflect the will of voters.  


  • Pennsylvania Senate race: "Dr. (Mehmet) Oz has...really stepped up. He's on the air. I think his advertising is good. And then John Fetterman has faced significant difficulties, some of them health related. Also, as his record has come out, he's taken positions on crime that are very, very hard to defend in this environment as voters are increasingly concerned about that as an issue."
  • Can GOP win majority without Pennsylvania? "We could. It just makes it harder because we've got to pick up more seats that are currently held by Democrats. And there aren't a lot of them that are competitive."
  • Larry Hogan and the Maryland Senate seat: "Steven Law: We also took a flyer on Governor Hogan in Maryland. We didn't really think he would do it, but we thought we might catch him in a weak moment. But that didn't work"

Executive producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin 

Show email:

Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast

Instagram: @TakeoutPodcast

Facebook: producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin 
Show email:
Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
Instagram: @TakeoutPodcast

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