Menendez: Dem Senate retirements will stop

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) previewed the 2010 strategy with reporters Wednesday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

Faced with an increasingly tough political environment and a public that Menendez said was anxious about the economy, the Democrats’ campaign guru emphasized that Republicans face contested primaries in the majority of the seats they are targeting.

The Democrats’ goal, he said, is to use those primaries to push the candidates to the right and make sure the Republican label is part of the equation.

“Republicans have a problem with their generic brand,” he said.

Asked of the projections that the Democrats’ 59-41 majority may be in doubt, Menendez said prognosticators are missing the picture.

“That doesn’t take into consideration the primaries that exist across the board for Republicans,” Menendez said. “People are moving further and further to the right.”

Menendez pointed specifically to candidates like former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, whom he said could have defined themselves “any way they wanted” had they not faced primaries.

Pressed on whether Republicans actually have a shot at the majority next year, Menendez said it was wishful thinking.

He also said he has “every confidence” there will be no more Democratic retirements.

Here are a few more interesting nuggets from the breakfast:

-In Indiana, where Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) is threatening to crash Rep. Brad Ellsworth’s (D-Ind.) coronation in the Democratic nominating process: “It’s the decision of the state committee, but Brad Ellsworth made a clear distinction by not filing for the House, and I think that speaks volumes.”

-In New York, on former Rep. Harold Ford Jr.’s (D-Tenn.) primary of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.): “I know Harold Ford. I like Harold Ford. I served with Harold Ford. But I don’t know if the views he took in the Tennessee Senate race are going to work in New York."

-In North Dakota: Former state Attorney General “Heidi Heitkamp is seriously looking at running.”

UPDATE 10:50 p.m.: NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh responds: "I’d say that we might use the Democrats’ own primaries in states like Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio to push their candidates to the left, but when you consider that all of their candidates are on record supporting the stimulus boondoggle and the president’s unpopular government healthcare bill, they’re already to the far left. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that in eight Democrat-held seats and in every open seat, it’s the Republican candidates who are ahead in the polls."