Sen. Charles Schumer on Wednesday predicted that Democrats would hold the Senate in 2012 in part by using a messaging strategy that seeks to blame the tea party for the struggling economy.
The New York Democrat said during a breakfast with reporters that voters are less concerned with spending and deficit issues than they have been during the past year and are now focused on jobs — his party's strong suit and a weak point for Republicans. Schumer, saying Senate Democrats are coordinating closely with President Barack Obama, predicted that voters would blame the tea party for high unemployment in next year's elections, simultaneously sinking the GOP.
"We are going to talk about tea party economics," Schumer, the Democratic Conference vice chairman, said during a discussion at the downtown headquarters of Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank.
"The republic has a whiff, after the debt ceiling debate, that the Republican Party has become quite extreme because it's been sort of run by tea party Congressmen and Senators, even though they're not a majority in either house," Schumer said. "They're standing in the way — on every issue. ... We've got to get some money pumped into the economy in the next year or two to avoid the tea party double-dip recession."
On Obama's jobs bill, Schumer said Senate Democrats would move to break it apart and attempt to pass it through the chamber in pieces. The legislation failed Tuesday evening to garner the 60 votes it needed to win a procedural motion move toward an up-or-down vote. But Schumer described the final tally as a victory for Democrats because 51 from his party — a bare majority — voted to end a Republican-led filibuster.
Schumer said the Senate would vote between now and the end of the year on components of the president's jobs bill as well as proposals authored by his fellow Democrats. Schumer indicated that he expects GOP opposition to continue but said that would only help his party recover its standing with the national electorate as 2012 approaches. No Republican voted with the Democrats on the jobs bill.
"The vote last night — we were very pleased with it. I was surprised with some newspapers saying 'setback,'" Schumer said. "This is one more step as part of our plan, which is basically, first to focus on jobs and the economy like a laser — we're in complete coordination with the White House on that — and to show that we want to change the dynamic on jobs and the economy and Republicans are blocking it."
Republicans were nonplussed with Schumer's 2012 election forecast and equally dismissive of his argument on jobs.
"That statement is almost as out-of-touch with political reality as the Democrats' decision to put most of their vulnerable 2012 Senators on record last night supporting a massive tax increase on job creators at a time when we're facing 9 percent unemployment," said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Republicans can only hope that the Democrat rank and file actually buys into this over-the-top rhetoric and tone-deaf legislative strategy by their fearless liberal leaders like Sen. Schumer."