Republicans express fears Donald Trump will lose presidential election

Richard Luscombe
<span>Photograph: REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Ted Cruz fears an election “bloodbath”. His fellow top Republican senator Thom Tillis is talking in terms of a Joe Biden presidency. And even Mitch McConnell, the fiercely loyal Senate majority leader, won’t go near the White House over Donald Trump’s handling of coronavirus protocols.

Individually, they could arguably be seen as off-the-cuff comments from Trump’s allies attempting to rally support for the US president just days ahead of a general election that opinion polls increasingly show him losing.

Related: US election polls tracker: who is leading in the swing states?

But collectively, along with pronouncements from several other Republicans appearing to distance themselves from Trump, his administration and its policies, it reflects growing concern inside the Republican party’s top tier that 3 November could be a blowout win for Joe Biden and the Democrats.

“I think it could be a terrible election. I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress, that it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions,” Cruz, the junior senator for Texas and former vocal critic of Trump, said in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Friday.

“I am worried. It’s volatile, it’s highly volatile,” he added, although he did say he also saw the possibility of Trump re-elected “with a big margin”.

Tillis, one of several Trump associates who contracted Covid-19 apparently at a super-spreader White House event two weeks ago, faces a tough fight for re-election as senator for North Carolina, and raised the prospect of a Trump defeat during a debate against Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham.

“The best check on a Biden presidency is for Republicans to have a majority in the senate,” he said, inadvertently suggesting he thought a Democratic victory next month could be a done deal. “Checks and balances does resonate with North Carolina voters,” he added.

Elsewhere, Republican displeasure at Trump is becoming increasingly evident, especially among candidates locked in tight election races of their own.

Martha McSally, the Arizona senator trailing the former Nasa astronaut Mark Kelly by a significant margin, attacked Trump for his repeated attacks on her predecessor, John McCain. “Quite frankly, it pisses me off when he does it,” she said in a debate this week.

The Texas senator John Cornyn slammed Trump this week for “creating confusion” over coronavirus and “letting his guard down” as the pandemic spread across the nation.

McConnell’s comments, meanwhile, about why he has not been to the White House for at least two months could be seen in a different context, given he is 78 and in the same at-risk demographic as the already infected president.

“My impression was that their approach to how to handle this is different from mine and what I suggested that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” he said.

But dissent from the staunch Trump ally has been almost unheard of through the four years of the presidency. McConnell’s words seem to reflect the threat that a nationwide backlash to Trump’s pandemic handling poses to the Republican senate majority.