Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) said Wednesday that he doesn’t expect any more Democratic retirements this cycle.
Senate Democrats have been hit hard since the beginning of the year by the unexpected retirements of Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.). Those departures leave Democrats defending territory in conservative states, and the two announcements caught the DSCC somewhat by surprise.
“I have every confidence at this point in time that there are no other Senate retirements,” Menendez assured reporters Wednesday at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “We clearly understand in the case of Byron Dorgan and Evan Bayh, these are very personal decisions that they came to the conclusion that they wanted to do something else with their lives.”
Menendez also attempted to deflect attention from the difficult political environment that Democrats face, claiming that contested GOP primaries in almost every Senate race will hamper Republican chances of winning seats this November. Committee staff handed out packets listing GOP Senate primaries and fundraising totals in races in Nevada, California, Colorado, Arkansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Florida.
“Republicans face competitive primaries in nearly every Senate race,” Menendez said. “We also see a drain on resources. Nearly everywhere the Republicans have a primary, the Democrat has a cash-on-hand advantage over everyone in their field.”
A bullish Menendez declared that his party has more advantages than the Republican Party. While there are five Senate Democrats who have opted not to seek election in November, Menendez pointed out that Senate Republicans have six open seats because of retirements, creating opportunities in Missouri, Ohio, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Florida. All of those races, he said, have competitive primaries that have forced GOP candidates like former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton to move further to the right.
“Look at what they’ve done in their primaries,” he said. “You’ve got people moving further and further to the right, like Ayotte in New Hampshire and Norton in Colorado. … You have Ayotte trying to get the endorsement of [Sen.] Jim DeMint [R-S.C.] and you have Norton as saying that President [Barack] Obama cares more about terrorists than he does about Americans.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh responded by stating that even though the GOP has primaries, polls in many of these races show his party has the upper hand.
“Of course the reality is that even with a handful of primaries on our own side, Republicans are currently leading in the polls in eight Democrat-held seats and every open seat because Americans are unhappy with the Democrats’ out-of-control spending in Washington and they want a change in leadership this November,” Walsh said.
When asked whether Senate Republicans, whose spirits and fundraising were buoyed after winning the special election in Massachusetts last month, have a chance of winning the majority in November, Menendez chalked it up to “wishful thinking” on the GOP’s behalf. Menendez said the math just isn’t there right now for Republicans to pick up the 10 seats that they need to get to 51.
“I just don’t see that under all possible sets of circumstances,” he said.