Sen. McConnell: ‘I Already Have the Votes to be Re-Elected as Republican Leader’

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today brushed aside suggestions that he might be challenged for his leadership post next year, declaring on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” that he’s already got enough votes to again lead what he said would be a larger GOP caucus next year.

Though several Tea Party-backed Republican challengers – including, most recently, Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller – have said they won’t commit yet to backing McConnell, fueling speculation of a possible leadership challenge, the Kentucky Republican said he isn’t worried about such chatter.

“We'll have a mixture of people coming in,” McConnell said on “Top Line.” “First of all, I already have the votes to be re-elected as Republican leader, and will be re-elected. We'll have different kinds of folks. We'll have moderates like Mike Castle [in Delaware] and Mark Kirk [in Illinois]. We'll have people who are experienced like Rob Portman [in Ohio] and Roy Blunt [in Missouri]. And we'll have some brand new people. So I think it'll be a mixture of folks.”

McConnell also expressed confidence that Castle, R-Del., would win his primary in two weeks, suggesting that the establishment choice won’t be afraid of challenging his Tea Party-backed opponent. McConnell said Castle is running like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who eviscerated his primary opponent and cruised to re-nomination last month.

“I hear that Congressman Castle is not ignoring his opponent and has paid a lot of attention to what has happened this spring and is modeling his primary campaign after John McCain's primary campaign,” McConnell said. “And I anticipate people [who do that will] have a better result."

McConnell wouldn’t make predictions about how many seats Republicans will pick up. But with some pundits saying they may even win the 10 seats they’d need to take control of the Senate, McConnell is going into November with optimism.

“I would love to have the opportunity to lead a larger number of Republicans,” McConnell said. “Right now we only have 41. I think most Americans think there hasn't been much balance in Washington, certainly no checks and balances. I'm going to be the leader of a larger group, and I don't view that as a problem.”

- Rick Klein

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