From NBC's Mark Murray
Despite facing a political environment in which Democrats are now favored to lose several Senate seats this November, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez argued today that the Republican Party has its share of problems that will limit its midterm successes.
Divisive and ideologically charged primaries. A band of Senate candidates whom can be portrayed as Washington insiders. And a party brand that remains in tatters.
Additionally, Menendez said that the talk of Republicans winning back control of the Senate is "wishful thinking."
"Look, they have to win every one of their open seats [in FL, KS, KY, MO, NH, and OH]. They have to defend a couple of their most vulnberable incumbents in North Carolina and in Louisiana. And after that, they have to pick up 10 seats," he told a group of political reporters this morning. "I just do not see that under any set of circumstances."
Menendez began his remarks by acknowledging the political environment confronting the majority party -- including an unemployment rate near 10%, a history benefiting the out-of-power party in midterms, and the two wars the nation is fighting. "We know the cards are somewhat stacked against us."
Still, the Democratic senator from New Jersey said the GOP is facing divisive primaries in states like Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, and New Hampshire. In Kentucky.
"They have huge primaries that drive them in the wrong direction," he said. "When you have Carly Fiorina traveling across California saying that she shares Sarah Palin's values, it gives you a sense of what those Republican primaries are doing."
Moreover, Menendez noted that several of the top GOP Senate candidates -- ex-Congressman Rob Simmons in Connecticut, ex-Sen. Dan Coats in Indiana, Congressman Roy Blunt in Missouri, and ex-Bush administration official Rob Portman in Ohio -- were Washington insiders would have a difficult navigating in this change environment.
"I'd rather be Robin Carnahan running against Roy Blunt. I'd rather be [Richard] Blumenthal running against Simmons. I'd rather be Lee Fisher running against Rob Portman."
Asked how some vulnerable Democratic incumbents -- like Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania -- could benefit in this change, anti-incumbent environment, Menendez replied that these Democrats could still be seen as agents of change. "Blanche Lincoln has an independent streak in her."
That said, Menendez admitted that the Democratic Party's political fortunes have reversed in the past year. He said that was due to the economy, a "freefall" in the housing market, and two wars. "The confluence of all of this at the same time is enormous."
Menendez also said that the DSCC was launching a "new offensive" aimed at GOP Senate candidates to ask them: "Where are your ideas?"
"We believe the American people are hungry for ideas and solutions," he contended, adding that the Democrats won't let the midterms become a referendum on President Obama. "It's going to be an election on our candidate against their candidate."
*** UPDATE *** The National Republican Senatorial Commitee sends this response: "We look forward to highlighting the Chairman's statements today in states like New Hampshire, Louisiana and Florida, among others, because I can't imagine Paul Hodes, Charlie Melancon and Kendrick Meek will be happy to learn that they've been deemed 'Washington insiders.' Further, if the standard is that primaries are bad, it sounds like the Democrats aren't very optimistic about their chances in states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky, where they are facing divisive primary battles. Rhetoric like that aside though, the reality is that Republicans are currently ahead in eight Democrat-held seats, along with every open seat, because voters are simply not happy with the Democrats' liberal agenda in Washington. More taxes, more spending, and more government control over their everyday lives is not the type of change they believe in which is why voters are making clear they will vote for new leadership in November."