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Additionally, the DPCC orchestrated a press conference at a Capitol Hill gas station to highlight Democratic action on the issue while putting Republicans on the defensive. Menendez and Stabenow spoke, as did another 2012 incumbent, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.). The DPCC plans to implement a similar comprehensive strategy on Medicare and the House GOP budget, which is expected to receive a Senate vote before the Memorial Day recess.
"I think we've had a wonderful strategy on gas prices and oil subsidies," Stabenow said. "People want to be communicating with the citizens in their state, and that's what we're helping them do."
Stabenow, like Murray, dismissed any suggestion of official coordination between the DPCC and the DSCC. But the DPCC is run largely by Schumer, the former two-term DSCC chairman who helped Democrats win 14 Senate seats in 2006 and 2008, and party operatives say the New York Senator built the new war room with politics in mind. Additionally, it is standard practice for Conference leadership to closely monitor progress at the DSCC.
Senate Democrats hold a four-seat edge in the chamber, and at this point in the election cycle, the majority appears to be saddled with a daunting electoral map. Democrats are defending more than twice as many seats as Republicans, and many of those are in GOP-leaning states. One Democratic source with knowledge of how the Conference operates suggested that the DPCC and DSCC work toward the same goal.
"The DPCC is set up in some ways as incumbent protection. It comes out in the people they ask to do events and the statements they put out," this source said. "Plus it's Schumer, so you know he can't say too far away from the DSCC."
Though Senate Democrats praised the DPCC, some appeared hesitant to discuss the relationship between the war room and the DSCC. Two Democratic Senators who are up in 2012 indicated that the DPCC has had a minimal effect on their political and legislative activities.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the DPCC does a "great job." But the Minnesota lawmaker said her state has unique issues, such as flooding, and emphasized that "I've been doing my own thing."
Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.) declined when asked to say that the DPCC has been specifically helpful to her campaign, although she said it has been positive for the Conference and "helpful to people."
"I think they've been very effective in taking the Democratic message and communicating it to what middle-class Americans are concerned about right now," Cantwell said.