From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Fresh from advocating for a public option at the Senate Finance Committee's ongoing health reform mark-up, Sen. Bob Menendez made the walk across the street from the Capitol and put on his other hat as head of the Democrats' Senate political arm.
He acknowledged that the landscape for Democrats, as it stands now, could be tough. He pointed out "red flags" -- their big gains in the past two cycles (and how that's tough to replicate); that Dems have dropped in the generic ballot test; and the historical disadvantages of trying to make gains in the Senate after picking up the White House.
But, he urged that the elections are still 14 months away and any prognosticating now is premature.
He acknowledged that Republicans gained some momentum during the August break, but he called it short term and that the GOP will come to regret being solely in opposition of the most important issues facing the country, like the economy and health care.
On the overarching issue of the economy, he said, "Does anyone think that a year from now we won't be in better shape? he asked.
Republicans, he said, have "done nothing to help" and have ceded the economy and health care. "That's a bad sign for Republicans," he said.
"They gamble against the economy, and the economy is recovering... It's about them positioning themselves on failure."
On the horse races, he said his Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee won't interfere in primaries unless they see them becoming too divisive. He said when candidates are talking about themselves or Republicans, that's fine. But when they start in harshly on each other, then the committee will step in.
Asked about the tough primary in Kentucky, though, Menendez said, "It's no big deal. I come from New Jersey."