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Balance of power: Senate GOP’s campaign chair cautiously optimistic about retaking majority in 2024 elections

Senate Republican campaign chief Steve Daines is tempering any talk of a red wave this autumn leading to a large GOP majority in the chamber.

‘I want 51. That’s the majority,’ the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) told Fox News Digital this week when asked what he’s aiming for in November’s elections.

Democrats control the U.S. Senate, 51-49, but Republicans are looking at a favorable Senate map this year, with Democrats defending 23 of the 34 seats up for grabs.

Three of those seats are in red states that former President Trump carried in 2020 — Ohio, Montana and West Virginia, where Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is not running for re-election.

‘The first state that we know that we’re going to win at this point is West Virginia,’ Danies said. ‘There’s one pickup seat right there.’

Five more Democrat-held seats are in key general election battleground states. Democrats are also defending an open seat in blue Maryland, where popular former two-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is running for the Senate.

‘We like where Larry’s at. We know that’s going to be a tough race because Maryland is a blue state, but it’s a Hogan state first and foremost,’ Daines argued.

While the map favors the GOP, Daines, the junior senator from Montana, is on the same page as longtime Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who also appears to be pouring cold water on hopes of sweeping victories.

And he’s striking a very different tone than his predecessor, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.

Scott predicted a 55-seat majority would come out of the 2022 midterms, but he fell far short as Republicans faced ballot box setbacks in key contests and failed to win back the Senate majority they lost in the 2020 cycle.

‘As we looked at the results of ’22, nobody was happy,’ Daines said in a sitdown interview at his office at the NRSC. ‘Everybody likes winning. Nobody likes to lose. We looked first and foremost at a strategy that would start with finding candidates that could win not just primary elections but general elections.’

Daines made news in a Fox Digital interview in December 2022 as he was coming onboard as NRSC chair. The senator vowed to do ‘whatever it takes to make sure we have a Republican majority.’

And that included having the NRSC get involved in contested GOP primaries, which marked a significant change from his predecessor on the committee.

Fast-forward a year and a half, and Daines says ‘we’re positioned now in most of these states with candidates that not only can win primaries but are making every general election race right now competitive.’

Plenty of the blame for 2022’s GOP Senate election setbacks was directed at Trump, who shaped key primary battles. In some of the races, the nominees either supported or begrudgingly disavowed Trump’s repeated re-litigating of his 2020 election defeat to President Biden and his unproven claims his loss was due to a ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen’ election.

Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona, Adam Laxalt in Nevada and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, who won their primaries due in part to Trump’s endorsements and support, all went down in defeat.

It’s been a different story in 2024, with Trump, the NRSC and McConnell mostly on the same page when it comes Senate race recruitments.

Daines credits his ‘strong productive working relationship, a friendship,’ he has with Trump, which has bridged the still-lingering intra-party divide between the former president and McConnell.

‘From the very beginning, the president and I have worked very closely, very carefully, finding candidates that we agree on, that are the best candidates that can not only win primaries but general elections,’ he noted. ‘We compare notes… there’s trust built there, constructive dialogue. We text and speak to each other frequently … as we shape the Senate map for 2024.’

But Daines hasn’t been able to totally avoid competitive and contentious primaries.

The Trump-supported Bernie Moreno earlier this year won a combustible nomination battle in Ohio, although the contest wasn’t as bitter as the 2022 GOP Senate primary slugfest in the Buckeye State.

And Republican Senate primaries are heating up in Michigan and Nevada, where Trump and the NRSC are once again backing the same candidate.

In Nevada, Sam Brown, a former Army officer who was severely injured in the Afghanistan war, has the backing of Trump and the NRSC. But former Trump Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter has vowed to spend ‘whatever it takes’ to defeat Brown.

In Michigan, wealthy investor and entrepreneur Sandy Pensler is spending big bucks on a major ad blitz as he takes aim at former Rep. Mike Rogers, the one-time FBI agent and former House Intelligence Committee chair who is endorsed by Trump and supported by the NRSC.

‘He has the full, complete, 100% endorsement and support of President Trump, of the NRSC, and that’s why Mike Rogers will win that primary,’ Daines emphasized.

The rival Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee argues that stories about the NRSC’s successes so far this cycle may have been prematurely written.

‘Senate Republicans’ roster of recruits is reeling from a series of reports uncovering their lies about their biographies, vulnerabilities tied to their finances and a lifetime of toxic statements and policy positions,’ DSCC spokesperson Tommy Garcia argued in a statement to Fox News. ‘Meanwhile, their primaries in states like Nevada and Michigan are erupting in chaos. The NRSC’s big bet to back a bunch of unvetted carpetbaggers is looking worse by the day.’

Regardless of the Democrats’ criticism, Daines remains optimistic — and one reason is President Biden.

Daines says having Biden at the top of the Democrats’ ticket this autumn is making his job easier.

Daines argues Democrats ‘have got to really combat the incredible headwinds they will face with a president who is so unpopular. Joe Biden makes Jimmy Carter look like a superstar. This is a real problem that the Democrats have.’

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS
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