WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, could lose his seat to Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke because he is not likable enough, Office of Management and Budget Director suggested at a meeting of Republican National Committee donors in New York Saturday.
"Do people like you? That's a really important question," Mulvaney said, according to a person who was in the room. "What we have is a very real possibility we will win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate. Ok. I don't think it's likely, but it's a possibility. How likable is the candidate? That still counts."
Some of his remarks were first reported by the New York Times on Saturday. Cruz's office did not immediately respond to NBC's request for comment.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Mulvaney, who did not use Cruz's name, was making a larger point that he believes the battle for control of Congress will be decided on a state-by-state and district-by-district level rather than the force of a political wave benefiting Democrats.
"Is this going to be the same thing for the Democrats as it was for the Republicans in 2010," when a Tea Party wave helped him win a House seat and gave Republicans control of the chamber. "I say this at the risk of giving the wrong answer to the question: the answer is no. It’s not."
Mulvaney said Democrats aren't bringing new voters into the process.
"It’s hard to bring new people in to a movement of hate," he said. "Anger doesn’t really attract people."
The other reason he doesn't see a wave, he said, is "we had a signature piece of legislation to run against. We had Obamacare. What is the signature piece of legislation that they’re against? The tax bill?"
Mulvaney said Republicans will win some races in which Democrats are favored and vice versa.
"What is going to be the distinguishing factor between those two outcomes?" he asked rhetorically. "Our candidates."
He pointed specifically to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who lost a special election last year amid allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct.
"The president asks me all the time, why did Roy Moore lose?" he said. "That’s easy. He was a terrible candidate."