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McConnell: 2016 goal is to maintain, not grow, GOP majority

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (AP) — Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the chances are “pretty slim” that Republicans will grow their majority in the U.S. Senate in 2016, saying his goal is to preserve the majority for what he hopes will be a Republican president.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a bigger number. We’re hoping not to have a smaller number,” the Senate majority leader told a Kentucky civic club.

McConnell said the reason is Republicans must defend 24 seats, compared to the Democrats’ 10. Plus, he said Republicans will have candidates in several states likely to be overshadowed by the presidential race, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois. But he did say Republicans have a chance to gain ground in Nevada, where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is not seeking re-election, and Colorado where Republicans will try to unseat one-term incumbent Michael Bennet in the same state where Republican Cory Gardner defeated incumbent Mark Udall in 2014.

“Regretfully we have an open seat in Florida because Sen. (Marco) Rubio is running for president and not running for senator at the same time,” McConnell told the Elizabethtown Rotary Club. “So we’ve got some challenges.”

McConnell’s fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is seeking re-election and the presidential nomination at the same time, thanks in part to McConnell’s help. McConnell has endorsed Paul’s candidacy and supported his effort to get around a provision in the Kentucky constitution that bans politicians from appearing on ballot twice in the same race.

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