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Menendez: 2010 Will Be Another Good Cycle for Democrats

At his first press conference of the 2010 election cycle, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) said he’d heard just about enough talk from Republicans about their ability to recover from back to back dismal showings at the polls and play offense next year.

“I know that historically after big wins, in the White House and both houses of the Congress with majorities, it might be tempting to think that 2010 will be a tough year for Democrats. But even a cursory look at the map shows you that the fear has got to be on the other side of the aisle,” Menendez said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) has made a visible effort in recent weeks to talk up GOP opportunities and prospects for success in 2010.

But on Thursday, Menendez painted a stark 2010 Senate landscape for the GOP, which has faced a rash of early retirements in states viewed by Democrats as prime pickup opportunities.

By contrast, Menendez said there would not be any Democratic retirements this cycle, which he said gives the party a solid foundation upon which to build its slate of 2010 candidates.

But while there may not be any more Democrats retiring in 2010, four Democrats have already left the chamber because of President Barack Obama’s election. The DSCC no doubt faces a more complicated playing field because it will have to defend the seats held by three appointed Senators as well as an open seat in Delaware.

Cornyn has been quick to talk up GOP opportunities in Illinois, Colorado and New York, the three states where appointees will presumably be running for a full term in 2010. In each of those states, there’s already been talk about serious Democratic primary challenges in 2010.

Menendez indicated Wednesday that those appointed Senators would have the backing of the DSCC, though his answer was short of definitive.

“I would presume that any of the appointee candidates who decide to run would have the support of the committee,” he said.

Menendez was eager to talk up several Democratic recruits in next year’s open-seat races.

He specifically pointed to Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) who is already running in the seat of retiring Sen. Kit Bond (R). Menendez was also keen on New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes (D), who has entered the 2010 race to replace Sen. Judd Gregg (R), who is expected to be confirmed later this month as the next Commerce secretary.

On top of those open-seat opportunities, the DSCC chairman specifically pointed to four other states — Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Kentucky — as places where Republican incumbents are particularly vulnerable this cycle.

Resurrecting Democrats’ favorite target from last cycle, Menendez said Republicans have shown during the early days of the 111th Congress that they are content to stick with the a “do nothing … Bush brand” of politics.

“The early evidence suggests Republicans haven’t changed their brand, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing so many retirements on the other side,” he said.

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