Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sat down with The Hill on Monday and said he was "optimistic" about Republican chances in November, and warned Democrats there is a "statute of limitations" on how long they can run against former President George W. Bush.
McConnell said "if the election were today, we'd have a good day. The president's approval rating is well below 50 and has been for a month or so. The party generic ballot — 'Would you be more likely to vote Republican or Democrat?' — is very good. … I'm reluctant to kind of project the future. But we're optimistic. We're optimistic that it will be a good day on Nov. 2 and restore some balance to the government."
He wouldn't predict how many seats his party might pick up, but he did scoff at one of the Democrats' main attack angles this election cycle: that returning Republicans to power would mark a return to the Bush-era policies.
"The Democrats would like to have a 'do-over' of the '06 and '08 elections," he said. "There's a statute of limitations on how long you can run against President Bush. They've been in office 18 months now."
He also noted that the voters "know who's in charge. They know who's in the White House. They know the president has a big majority in the House and a big majority in the Senate, and they've focused fully on what's happened in the last year and a half. And it is naïve of our friends on the other side to assume they can run again the '06 and '08 elections. This is going to be about the present, not the past. And about the record of this administration, not the previous administration."
McConnell also has a competitive Senate race in his own state, where Republican candidate Rand Paul is running to keep retiring Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) seat. Paul won the nomination largely on the support of the Tea Party, which has become a presence in many primaries this year.
McConnell called the group a "positive" factor.
"With regard to the Tea Party factor, I think it's been positive," he said. "These are citizens who feel like we're losing the country, and the issues that they seem to be most concerned about are the issues that Republicans are most concerned about. And one thing I would point out is that the issues that are driving the Tea Party are the same issues that are driving surveys and driving independents in our direction."
The Senate Republican leader also predicted President Obama would become a "born-again moderate" after the election.
"If there is a mid-course correction in November, I think the president will become a born-again moderate," McConnell said.