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Cornyn: Economy Trumps War in 2010

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Thursday morning that Republicans are generally pleased with President Barack Obama’s decisions when it comes to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he said the 2010 election will come down to economic issues.

“Most Republicans are … pleased with his direction in both of those wars,— Cornyn told reporters assembled at a breakfast held by the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday morning.

He said Republicans have also been encouraged by Obama’s decision to retain key officials from the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who have helped guide the war effort.

But Cornyn said he still believes the American people trust Republicans more than Democrats when it comes to national security issues, and despite his praise of the president’s handling of Iraq and Afghanistan, he said Obama’s management of the nation’s economic crisis will cause Americans to seek a change in next year’s midterm elections.

“I think 2010 is likely to be about spending and borrowing … and failure to deal with other fiscal challenges,— he said.

Cornyn, who admitted that the 2010 electoral map favors Democrats, wouldn’t give a specific number of Senate seats when asked what would be considered a successful cycle for Republicans.

He did note that “success would be stemming the tide— this cycle after back-to-back elections that produced major Democratic gains.

And when it comes to Senate races around the country, Cornyn said opportunities are continuing to crop up that will allow Republicans to regain their footing.

For example, he said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) latest “upside down— poll numbers have bolstered confidence that the GOP has a real shot at knocking off the most powerful man in the Senate.

A survey done for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and released Tuesday showed that half of Nevadans had an unfavorable view of Reid, and just 35 percent of voters would vote to re-elect the four-term Senator.

“The right candidate needs to take advantage of that opportunity,— Cornyn said.

The GOP has often talked about giving Reid a serious challenge this cycle, but as the months have passed and no serious Republican has emerged, some observers have wondered if Reid might only draw token opposition.

Cornyn wasn’t ready to name a candidate, but he emphasized that it’s not uncommon for serious candidates to get into Senate races late. To emphasize the point, he cited a bipartisan list of current Senators who announced their candidacies well into the election cycle, including Sen. Kay Hagan (D) who defeated then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) last cycle.

In his discussion of several Senate races around the country, Cornyn touched on Kentucky, where Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R) insistence that he is running for re-election has become a headache for the party. Bunning is clearly the GOP’s most endangered incumbent facing voters in 2010, and leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have done little to hide the fact they would prefer Bunning step aside in order to help the party hold the seat.

“I’ll support Sen. Bunning if he runs for re-election,— Cornyn said.

But he pointed out that Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson recently formed an exploratory committee with Bunning’s encouragement.

“Maybe that means that Sen. Bunning is going to look and see what his election prospects look like … how his fundraising goes and make a decision at a later date,— Cornyn said. “But until he does, we will be supporting Sen. Bunning.—

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