Updated: 1:33 p.m.
Top Democrats presented a confident front Sunday morning, even amid a growing consensus that they are all but certain to lose control of the House, and possibly the Senate, in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“I believe Democrats are going to hold on to the House,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“You’ve got large pools of undecided voters,” he said. “What they’re now doing is taking a very close look at these Republican candidates, recognizing that they’re way off on the right extreme. Many of them are these candidates that have been recruited and blessed by Sarah Palin.”
Host Chris Wallace said the chairman was “acting as if everything is great,” even as most experts predict deep losses for Democrats on Tuesday.
“I’m not acting as if everything’s great,” Van Hollen said, acknowledging that the economic recovery has been slow and voters are angry. But he dismissed the experts’ predictions. “They’ve been wrong many times before.”
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay responded in an e-mail statement Sunday, “They say the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, yet Chris Van Hollen and his party are still completely oblivious to the intervention they’re about to receive from voters on Tuesday night.”
Lindsay added that the American people are poised to deliver a message to Democrats that has “everything to do with the spending addiction in Washington that has stifled any hope of job creation in this country.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) conceded Sunday that history indicates Democrats are bound to lose seats in both chambers, but he said, “There is no mad love affair with Republicans across America.” He added that he expects voters at the polls to behave differently than voters have in party favorability polls.
“People aren’t going to be voting for generic candidates on Tuesday,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They’ll be voting for actual candidates. And what I found as I traveled around is that in many of the states that I visited, when people listen to the candidates and know them and directly ask them questions and trust them, you get a much different outcome.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) also downplayed potential losses. “This is not 1994,” he said. “In 1994, the Republican brand, its image, was much better than it is today.”
Menendez added that the Republican takeover in 1994 caught many by surprise. “We’ve known that this midterm election is going to be challenging, so our candidates for the U.S. Senate have been ready for this,” he said.
Menendez’s counterpart, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas), maintained his cautious but optimistic position. “I think we’ll make a lot of headway,” he said on “This Week.” “I’m not predicting that we’ll get the majority this cycle. I think it probably is going to take two cycles, but there’s certainly a potential there depending on just how high and how broad this wave election is.”
When pressed by host Christiane Amanpour on whether Republicans would join with Democrats to compromise and avoid gridlock, Cornyn suggested there was room to come together. “I don’t think gridlock is going to be acceptable when it comes to runaway spending and unsustainable debt and 9.6 percent unemployment,” he said.
When confronted with a report that Republicans are “abandoning” Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, who is trying to fend off a surging write-in bid from incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Cornyn insisted that “we are supporting the nominee of our party.”
“Do you think he can win?” Amanpour asked.
Cornyn responded: “I think that polls are very close now between Sen. Murkowski and Joe Miller. What we want to make sure of is that the Democrat doesn’t win.”
Polls show Democrat Scott McAdams deep in third place but rising. “We’re not pouring a lot of money in, but we believe Scott McAdams actually has a real chance of winning this race,” Menendez said. “Mr. Miller has obviously plummeted.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she feels “good about the Senate right now in terms of what’s going to happen at the end of this election.” In naming the Senate races to watch Tuesday, the Minnesota Democrat told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that she thinks Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer will win in California. She assessed Democratic Sen. Patty Murray as “ahead” in Washington and said Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin “has pretty much opened up a lead” in West Virginia.
Klobuchar also predicted that Miller, whom she did not name, is “going down.” As for the fierce fight between Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and GOP candidate Ken Buck in Colorado, she said Bennet is “in a tight race” but “doing incredibly well.”
Meanwhile, Durbin steadfastly stood behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Nevada Democrat is in the fight of his political career against Republican candidate Sharron Angle, a tea party favorite, and CNN host Candy Crowley asked the Majority Whip whether he would throw his support to Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) as a Democratic leader in the event Reid loses.
“I made a promise to Harry Reid I wouldn’t even speculate on this possibility,” Durbin said. “Harry Reid is our Majority Leader, and I support him.”