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Senate Democrats plan to use GOP agenda in '12

From NBC’s Domenico Montanaro
A day after President Obama gave a withering speech that eviscerated House Republicans' budget proposal, Democrats said they would use the GOP agenda to help them hold the Senate.

“The foil of this election is not the past; it is the present and most decidedly the future,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairwoman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, told reporters at a meeting this morning to discuss the 2012 landscape in which Senate control hangs in the balance.

Democrats face an uphill climb in their chances at holding the Senate -- 23 of their members (or ones who caucus with them) are up for reelection next year. Republicans need to flip four seats to take control if President Obama wins re-election; if he doesn’t, they just need to net three.

Asked what a good night for her party would be on Election Night 2012, Murray said, “Winning the majority of the United States Senate.”

Murray said she is more optimistic today about holding the Senate than when she was first offered the job. Then, it was “doom and gloom,” she said, adding though that she sees a “changing landscape” that is moving toward Democrats. She said the DSCC’s Web site, for example, has seen contributions increase three-and-a-half times since this time in 2009.

With Republicans in control of the House, “we’re seeing most decidedly what their agenda is,” Murray said. She cited, in particular, Republicans’ stance during last week’s budget and spending debate that threatened a government shutdown.

“The last open item wasn’t budget cuts,” she contended, “it was women’s health care” and cuts to Planned Parenthood.

She argued that jobs and the economy are still No. 1 in voters’ minds, especially independents,’ and they are looking at Republicans and thinking, “What? You talked about the debt and deficit and here’s what you want to do?”

Couple that with the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget “and what people are seeing is what they stand for,” Murray said. She described the Ryan budget as one that asks no sacrifice of billionaires, one that would hurt working families, and “dramatically goes after Medicare.”

“This is a real dagger in the heart of a lot of American families,” Murray said, adding later that it shows the “difference between who we are and what they believe in.”

Still, Democrats will largely be playing defense. First Read's latest Top 10 Senate Takeovers showed eight of the top 10 were Republican targets -- North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Virginia, New Mexico, Florida, and Michigan. Democrats' best targets are in Nevada and Massachusetts. Nevada is likely to be a toss up. Democrats have high hopes for left-leaning Massachusetts in an election year. But so far, they don't have a candidate and, more importantly, incumbent Republican Scott Brown remains popular.

Murray unveiled today what she called Democrats’ “Six in ’12” campaign -- meaning six places they will go on offense next year, including Nevada and Massachusetts, as well as Maine, Indiana, Arizona, and even Texas. Maine and Indiana were there because of the potential for Tea Party primary challengers to topple GOP incumbents; and Arizona and Texas because of “changing demographics.”

In reality, however, many of those are likely long shots.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh responded this way in a statement: “While national Democrats appear oblivious to the reality that a number of their incumbents are running in red states next year, Republicans can only hope they continue to demand that every one of their candidates toe the party line in favor of higher taxes, more spending and a record debt. Instead of listening to voters and learning from their losses at the ballot box last November, Democrats are doubling-down on their big government agenda and their extreme, left-wing rhetoric leaves their party even more vulnerable to losing control of the Senate next year.

Murray, though, described herself as “pragmatic,” and said of the job ahead for Democrats: “This is not easy.”