Schumer’s Target List Gets Bigger as Cycle Progresses

Posted April 8, 2008 at 6:15pm

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Tuesday revealed his view of the Senate playing field, effectively naming 18 Republican-held seats as targets and ranking them according to their vulnerability.

Nearly seven months before Election Day, Schumer sees the DSCC’s brightest pickup opportunities in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Virginia, describing them as states where the Democratic candidate is “ahead” in the most recent polling.

Next in line on Schumer’s list of potential pickups are Maine, Minnesota and Oregon, seats where the DSCC chairman described his candidates as trailing Republican incumbents, but “within reach.” After those eight targets, Schumer touted Democrats’ chances in solidly conservative Kentucky, Mississippi and North Carolina, saying the Democrats were “within striking range” of Sens. Mitch McConnell, Roger Wicker and Elizabeth Dole, respectively.

“We are challenging Republicans seriously in 13 states,” Schumer said during an afternoon news conference. “I think this is going to be a big Democratic year.”

Republicans have a tough map, defending 23 seats this cycle compared with just 12 for the Democrats. And the DSCC continues to raise and bank significantly more money than the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

But NRSC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said many of the DSCC’s Republican targets are doing better than Schumer suggests, adding that there is little data to back up the DSCC chairman’s enthusiasm.

“We believe Republicans have made real progress when you look at where Democrats predicted last year they would be, compared to Schumer’s forecasts today,” Fisher said. “We will continue to make progress over the next several months.”

Schumer was speaking at a joint news conference on the November elections with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.).

The DSCC chairman said there are a number of Republican-held seats where Democrats have good candidates and might yet be able to compete, depending on how the remainder of the election cycle unfolds.

The seats on that list are in solidly Republican states and presumed safe for the GOP — at least at this point. They include Georgia, where Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) is up for re-election; Idaho, where Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R) is the favorite; Kansas, where Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is seeking a third term; Nebraska, where former Gov. Mike Johanns (R) is the frontrunner; Oklahoma, where Sen. James Inhofe (R) is up for a fourth term; and Texas, where Sen. John Cornyn (R) is running again.

The Republicans have just one legitimate pickup opportunity this cycle: Louisiana, where state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu (D). Schumer acknowledged this fact, but said Landrieu is working hard and is well-positioned for re-election.

“She’s doing great,” Schumer said.

Schumer and Van Hollen were upbeat about their party’s chances in both the upcoming presidential contest and the Congressional elections.

Schumer said this year could be a seminal year for Democrats and create generations of future Democratic voters, much as what happened in 1932, when New York Gov. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) swept into power in the midst of the Great Depression.

Van Hollen said only a protracted and bitter Democratic presidential primary battle between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) might stand in the way of Democratic successes on Nov. 4.

“I think the energy and enthusiasm seen in the Democratic [presidential] primaries is a great sign for the eventual Democratic nominee with the one caveat that I mentioned: Make sure that both candidates try and stay positive so you don’t create any lasting wounds that will depress that energy and enthusiasm,” Van Hollen said.