(CNSNews.com) - As some Republicans blame Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to regain control of the Senate, McConnell on Tuesday blamed "people in our party leadership" for "frightening independent and moderate" voters.
He appeared to be talking about Donald Trump, who campaigned with or endorsed many of the Republican candidates who lost their elections.
McConnell also told the news conference he doesn't "own" the job of minority leader, and "anybody in the conference is certainly entitled to challenge me," as Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has done.
"I have the votes, I will be elected," McConnell said. "The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later, and I think we'll probably have another discussion about that tomorrow (Wednesday)."
Some Republicans want McConnell to delay the leadership election until the Senate runoff in Georgia is completed on Dec. 6.
A reporter noted that Rick Scott and other Republicans have criticized McConnell for failing to produce an agenda for Republican candidates to run on, which allowed Democrats to say Republicans "didn't really stand for anything."
"Every one of our candidates knew what they were for, expressed it quite clearly," McConnell responded:
"It's pretty obvious, and all of you have been writing about it, what happened. We underperformed among independents and moderate because their impression of many of the people in our party in leadership roles is that they're involved in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks.
"And it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters, and we saw that, which is why you all recall I never predicted a red wave. We never saw that in any of our polling in the states that we were counting on to win. There was no way.
"We had a national issue set that was favorable, but as a result of our own -- the perception many of them had that we were not dealing with issues in a responsible way and that we were spending too much time on negativity and attacks and chaos, they were frightened, and so they pulled back.
"We, in two states, for example...got just crushed by independent voters -- Arizona and New Hampshire. So we learned some lessons about this, and I think the lesson is pretty clear. Senate races are different. Candidate quality, you'll recall I said in August, is important. And in most of our states, we met that test. In a few of them, we did not."
In separate remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, McConnell welcomed new senators-elect:
"Among their ranks are an all-star lawyer and leader from Alabama, the attorney general from the great state of Missouri, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, a businessman and bestselling author from Ohio, and three distinguished members of the House of Representatives," McConnell said.
He also reminded his listeners of long-standing Senate rules:
“Exactly 25 years ago, in remarks welcoming the new Senate class of 1996, Senator Robert Byrd told them that service in this body is both ‘a supreme honor,’ ‘a serious responsibility,’ and ‘the highest political calling in the land.’
“The famous student of the Senate’s rules and history, our former colleague from West Virginia concluded that ‘as long as the Senate retains the power to amend and the power of unlimited debate [the filibuster], the liberties of the people will remain secure.’"