Two of the three Senators who have announced their retirements conceded Sunday that they would have faced tough re-election fights in 2012 but contended they would have won.
Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who has also publicly decided not to run for re-election.
Hutchison maintained that she is a “reliable conservative” and dismissed criticism from tea party members who could have challenged her in the GOP primary.
“I would have won,” she said. “It would have been a tough race, for sure, but I think I would have won, because I think my record is good, and it is to be effective and get things done.”
Several Texas Republicans, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, are considering running for Hutchison’s seat. The winner of that crowded primary will have an advantage heading into the general election in the GOP-leaning state.
Lieberman was also facing a challenging re-election bid as an independent candidate. At least two Democrats, including Rep. Christopher Murphy, have already announced they are running for the seat and were expected to run even if Lieberman stayed in the race.
“I believed I would have won re-election,” Lieberman said. “Obviously, it would have been a tough campaign. But, you know, as I said, so what else is new?”
Asked why he had made his decision, Lieberman said it was simply “time for a change.”
“At the end of this term, I will have served 24 years in the U.S. Senate, 40 years in elective office,” he said. “I’ve run 15 campaigns in Connecticut. I want to try something different. I want to begin a new chapter of my life.”
Conrad said Democrats hit a rough patch in the 2010 elections because “enough is enough.” Adding the Troubled Asset Relief Program to the “stimulus, and the auto bailout, and the health care bill, it just struck people that there was too much coming from the federal government, and so people wanted to make a change,” he added.
After Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) opted not to seek re-election last year, Republican John Hoeven won in a landslide. The state was already among Republicans’ top pickup opportunities, and Democrats now must find someone to run in Conrad’s place.
The Senators also commented on President Barack Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address and what he should do going forward.
Conrad said he would like to hear the president discuss the economy and jobs, the debt, and America’s dependence on foreign energy in Tuesday’s address.
Hutchison said she hopes Obama will follow through on some of his recent centrist rhetoric. “Will he really get his regulatory commissions to cut back on the regulations that are hurting the growth of business? Will he agree to some changes in the Obamacare, which is keeping people from hiring?” she asked, referring to the health care overhaul law.
Lieberman said, “The main focus really has to be on, how do you keep growing jobs and at the same time deal with the biggest long-term threat to America’s strength and our economy, and that is the debt?”