GOP senator has 'sure-win list,' predicts party takes control of Senate

GILBERT, W.Va. — Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Friday he's confident Republicans will take back the majority in the Senate and expects West Virginia's contest between Republican John Raese and Gov. Joe Manchin (D) to be the majority-maker for the GOP.

"If someone had told me 20 years ago or even six months ago that Republicans would ever take the seat vacated by Sen. Byrd, I would've called them crazy," Inhofe told The Ballot Box on Friday while campaigning with Raese on a swing through southern West Virginia. "But this race looks like a sure thing to me right now."

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Inhofe then pulled out a sheet of paper on which he has jotted down his own Senate math.  

"Here's my sure-win list," Inhofe said. "We've got Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Washington, Wisconsin and North Dakota. West Virginia is the newest one on here, and that brings us to 10."

In reality, several of those races, including the Manchin-Raese contest in West Virginia, are far from sure wins for the GOP on Tuesday, but Inhofe said the national environment continues to trend toward the GOP. He predicted things could get even worse for Democrats before Election Day.

The senator said he doesn't think Republicans need to win in either Connecticut or California on Tuesday, "but that doesn't mean we won't, which would give us room to spare."

After November, Inhofe anticipates a relatively uneventful lame-duck session, with Democrats largely unable to push much of anything through. He also doesn't think President Obama will move to the center if his party suffers big midterm losses.

"I kind of look at him and look at Clinton in 1994," Inhofe said. "While Clinton is arrogant, he can't approach the level of arrogance of Barack Obama. Obama looks in the mirror every morning and says, 'I can convince anyone of anything.' So while Clinton came back and started working with Republicans, I just don't see Obama doing that."  

As for who would lead the GOP in the Senate if the party takes back the majority, Inhofe said talk of anyone other than Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as majority leader is just talk.

"He has the votes to spare, and I don't think anyone would challenge him," Inhofe said. "I know some people say Jim DeMint, but it won't happen."

Inhofe, who is often a conservative lightning rod in Washington, has hit the trail for a handful of GOP Senate contenders ahead of Election Day. He also recorded a video for Alaska's Republican Senate nominee, Joe Miller, which was played at Thursday's rally headlined by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).  

"The campaign trail's been great," said Inhofe. "In Washington there's so many people who hate me, it's kind of fun to go where people like you."