WASHINGTON – Despite the strong headwinds facing Senate Republicans, the leader of their campaign arm says the party can maintain control of the chamber.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to run rampant. The country has been riven by racial justice protests. President Donald Trump has fallen behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in national and key statewide polls. Add to the mix a stalemate between lawmakers and the White House over pandemic relief legislation.

Yet Sen. Todd Young is hopeful of a good result for his party in November. Young, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, points to what he calls strong GOP candidates and the organization’s fundraising muscle as reasons for his upbeat attitude.

He asserts the NRSC has broken fundraising records each month since he took over in January 2019 and could raise a record $200 million for the cycle.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished at the committee level,” Young said in an HPI phone interview on Wednesday, while visiting Loogootee. “That puts me in a position of guarded optimism roughly 90 days out [from the election]. My Senate colleagues are continuing to run great races. We’re actually seeing significant movement in a positive direction as we look at our internal polling numbers.”

But Young acknowledges the challenges for Republicans, who hold a 53-47 Senate majority and are defending 23 seats. Democrats are defending 12 seats. The GOP has been outspent by $60 million across the political map and by significant amounts in every targeted race.

Senate ‘up for grabs’

“The Senate majority is up for grabs at this point,” Young said.

There are eight races within the margin of error, Young said. The GOP is “on defense” in six of them – Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa, Montana and Georgia – and “on offense” in two states – New Mexico and Michigan.

Sen. Susan Collins has a lead outside of the margin of error in her tough race in Maine, Young said. He’s confident the GOP will oust Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama.

Young can’t control the political atmosphere but he’s trying to do what’s within his power at the NRSC – namely, generating the money that can be a “force multiplier” in close contests.

So far, the NRSC has raised $133.6 million and has about $30.5 million in cash on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Senate Democratic campaign organization, has raised $125.1 million and has $37.7 million on hand.

Young has set a large “stretch goal” for total fundraising.  

“We are on course to raise upwards of $200 million, significantly outraising the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, breaking all previous records by a long shot and, thus, comporting ourselves in a fashion for which we will long be proud,” he said.

Pandemic relief stalemate

The latest potential obstacle for the Senate GOP is the stalled talks over a coronavirus relief bill. As the economy weakens and unemployed Americans struggle to make ends meet, Republicans could pay a political price.

But Young said it’s Democrats who are culpable for the stalemate over the legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer support an approximately $3.4 trillion bill the House passed in May. Senate Republicans have countered with an approximately $1 trillion measure.

“Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer don’t want a principled compromise,” Young told Indiana reporters on a conference call on Wednesday.

Young added in the HPI interview:  “Increasingly, we’re starting to see the risk shifting to the Democrats as opposed to what I think Nancy Pelosi has calculated – the risk lying with the president and the Republicans – because of their unreasonable demands that we bow to a $3.5 trillion demand and a litany of far-left ideological provisions that our members obviously aren’t going to be supporting.”

Blocking the ‘far left’

Preventing the “far left” from taking over the Senate and changing legislative rules to make it easier to pass legislation is likely to become a theme of GOP Senate campaigns.

“It’s very important that the Democrats don’t have unchecked power to drive their agenda after they eliminate the legislative filibuster, which the far left is driving national Democrats to do,” Young said.

But voters could ultimately decide to punish Senate Republicans for the pain caused by the pandemic and Trump’s response to the virus. If they do, how much blame would Young take for Republicans losing the Senate majority on his watch as NRSC chairman? Would it diminish his political future?

Young brushes off those questions. He said was encouraged to run for the GOP Senate campaign helm by former Sen. Richard Lugar, who held the same position in the 1984 election cycle. Lugar died in April 2019.

While Lugar was NRSC chairman, the organization’s executive director was Mitch Daniels, who went on to become Indiana governor. In 1984, the GOP lost two Senate seats but maintained its majority, as President Ronald Reagan won a landslide re-election.

“It didn’t seem to hurt the careers of Chairman Dick Lugar and Gov. Mitch Daniels,” Young said. In the challenging atmosphere of this election cycle, the NRSC is doing all it can to put GOP candidates in a position to succeed, Young said. “You can still break all previous fundraising records by a long shot and earn the trust and respect and gratitude of colleagues and conservatives around the country,” Young said.