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As National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) charts his Conferences course out of the political wilderness, he has narrowed in on two unlikely targets: House Republicans and the National Republican Congressional Committee, run by his Lone Star State colleague Rep. Pete Sessions.
In repeated conversations, Cornyn has revealed his sales pitch for rebuilding a Senate GOP that has sunk to 42 seats at best a major component of which is telling donors and House Members he is recruiting to run for Senate that investing time and money in the House is an exercise in futility.
I would love to get a Republican majority in the House, I just dont think its feasible this cycle, Cornyn said in an interview. Now, that doesnt mean they cant make gains, and certainly they can. But were friendly competitors.
Cornyn is candid that his appeals to GOP campaign contributors include emphasizing that contrary to the Senate House parliamentary rules afford the Republican minority virtually no power to obstruct or shape the agenda of President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats. Individual Senators have available to them a powerful set of parliamentary tools regardless of which party holds the majority.
Cornyn already has used this argument to try to recruit House Republicans to run for the Senate.
In describing a conversation with Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), whom Cornyn is trying to lure to run for what will be an open seat in 2010, the NRSC chairman said: Being in the House right now and as a Republican is not a lot of fun. So I think its more fun, and you can have a lot of impact being in the Senate right now, so I hope hell come join us.
Castle, Delawares at-large Representative for several years, is popular. But the First State has leaned increasingly Democratic since the early 1990s, and Republicans would be hard-pressed to hold Castles seat if he retired to run for Senate. Castle is being courted to run for Vice President Joseph Bidens old seat, now held by Sen. Ted Kaufman (D), who has said he will not run to retain it in 2010.
Cornyn hasnt set out to create headaches for House Republicans and the NRCC, not to mention Sessions. The Senator finds intriguing the idea of cooperating with the NRCC on messaging as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did in the 2006 and 2008 cycles and stresses that he means no ill intent despite the somewhat confrontational nature of his sales pitch.
But in his usual logical, lawyerly style, Cornyn is doing what he believes makes the most sense to accomplish his goal of not just preventing Republican Senate losses in 2010, but also winning seats.
Cornyns task doesnt appear easy. Many of the 18 Democratic seats that are up in 2010 appear safe, which is not the case for the 19 Republican seats.
Privately, political strategists familiar with Cornyns approach say hes playing it smart.