Cornyn Bullish on GOP’s 2010 Senate Prospects

Posted August 5, 2009 at 1:35pm

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) laid out a buoyant assessment Wednesday of the GOP’s prospects for winning key Senate races, touting his committee’s ability to turn around a difficult election map and play offense in 2010.

He attributed the committee’s early success to the legislative agenda of President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats and their passage of unpopular legislation, such as the economic stimulus bill.

“President Obama is now looking more like a mere mortal, rather than someone who defied all the nature laws of gravity when it came to his poll numbers,— Cornyn said at a meeting with reporters Wednesday morning.

After losing a total of 14 seats in 2006 and 2008, Senate Republicans expected 2010 would be another tough election cycle with several vulnerable Senators up for re-election and five retirements producing several competitive open seat races.

“But I’m particularly pleased that in light of retirements in some pretty tough states for us, that we have not only rebounded but we are on offense in places like Ohio,— said Cornyn, who went on to tout GOP candidates in several other states.

Cornyn boasted that former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has basically begun running his general election campaign, while two statewide Democratic officials are battling for the Senate nomination in a primary. In Missouri, Cornyn commented, Rep. Roy Blunt (R) had staged a fundraising comeback in the second quarter and eliminated potential primary competition of his own.

The Texas Republican blasted the Democrats for failing to recruit Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D), despite pressure from Obama to get her to run for his former Senate seat. Cornyn also criticized Democrats’ efforts to find a viable candidate to run against Sen. Richard Burr (R) in North Carolina.

Cornyn bragged about former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, whom the NRSC recruited to run for retiring Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-N.H.) seat. Cornyn also touted the fundraising prowess of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who has raised more than $5 million for his campaign so far.

“I’d like to clone his fundraising abilities, which are simply remarkable,— Cornyn quipped.

In Pennsylvania, Cornyn appeared pleased with recent poll data that showed former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) — whom one of his colleagues once tagged as an unviable general election candidate — within a few points of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.). Cornyn also cited the “miserable— poll numbers of another Democratic incumbent, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who is trailing some of his GOP opponents in public surveys.

Cornyn noted the NRSC is keeping tabs on two potential top-tier candidates in California and North Dakota, where he said recent polling was encouraging. In North Dakota, Cornyn described a recent conversation with Gov. John Hoeven (R) about a poll showing him well-positioned in the race against Sen. Byron Dorgan (D).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did not respond directly to Cornyn’s criticism of their recruitment strategy but instead blasted Senate Republicans for blocking Obama’s and Congressional Democrats’ legislation.

“The Republican strategy of stopping every effort to fix the economy, and stopping every effort to lower health care costs, shows that not only have they not learned any lessons from the past elections but also that they may be a bit presumptuous to start singing happy days are here again,— said DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz.