Menendez Predicts Midterm Victories

Posted June 10, 2010 at 6:14pm

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) predicted Thursday that voters would be much kinder to his party on Election Day than others expect.

Menendez argued that Republicans are nominating extreme candidates incapable of connecting with Americans on issues they care about.

Gauges of the Democrats’ electoral prospects continue to suggest that the majority faces an uphill climb this fall, as President Barack Obama’s approval rating hovers under 50 percent in some surveys, unemployment has been stuck near 10 percent for several months and key voting blocs remain skeptical of the new health care overhaul. Additionally, Republicans are polling competitively in Senate races across the country, including in traditionally Democratic states.

But Menendez brushed aside those indicators, saying at an afternoon news conference that the predictor he will be watching the day before the Nov. 2 elections is the right-track, wrong-track poll of how voters feel about the direction of the country. Menendez said the DSCC’s strategy is to frame the Senate elections as a “contrast” and a “choice” between mainstream Democrats focused on pocketbook issues and out-of-touch, far-right Republicans.

“Our candidates [are] focused on jobs, the economy and the issues that matter to people around the kitchen table,” Menendez said. “I think we will do much better than people expect us to moving into the November elections.”

The RealClearPolitics.com average of all right-track, wrong-track polls taken between May 15 and June 6 showed that 61 percent of voters believe the country is on the wrong track, with 34 percent saying the country is headed in the right direction.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) rebutted Menendez’s analysis, saying the upcoming elections would be a “referendum on Washington, D.C., and the people who are in charge.” Cornyn contended that the policies pursued by the White House and Democrats in Congress are highly unpopular with the electorate, and he expected Republicans to profit from that unhappiness in November.

“Spending, debt, the health care bill that was jammed down the public’s throat,” Cornyn said. “They were told, ‘You will learn to love it,’ even though they don’t. I think that’s what this election will be about.”

Menendez said Tuesday’s primary elections proved that the political atmosphere remains both “fluid” and “volatile” for both parties, and he conceded that the environment is still troublesome for Democrats.

The DSCC chairman noted that midterm elections are historically difficult for the party that controls the White House. He also acknowledged that economic conditions are taking a toll on the majority, although he referred to them as an “inherited” problem that is improving because of Democrats’ actions.

Menendez, citing his confidence in his incumbents and open-seat candidates versus their Republican opposition, said he believes the challenges can be overcome if the Democrats frame the contours of the debate in each race. The Senator indicated that the majority intends to raise the specter of the previous administration and years that the GOP controlled Congress.

“If [voters] are unhappy about the way things are today, they certainly would be far more unhappy if we have people who would take us back to what created this set of circumstances,” Menendez said. “That’s why I think we’re going to be doing a lot better.”