Cornyn: 2012 elections will be 'referendum' on Washington

Senate Republicans' campaign chief said Thursday evening that he expects next year's congressional campaigns to be largely a referendum on leadership in Washington.

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said he expected voters to base their decision in next fall's races on their satisfaction with the work that's being done in Washington more than anything else.

"2012 will continue to be a referendum on the policies that have been emanating from here in Washington," Cornyn told reporters at the Capitol.

Republicans succeeded in the 2010 campaigns (during which Cornyn served his first term as NRSC chairman) in part by nationalizing the campaign, and making it largely about the leadership of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But 2010's successes, which saw Republicans retake control of the House and make inroads in the Senate, also carry new responsibilities. Namely, making the 2012 campaign about "Washington" means that Republicans in the House now bear some responsibility for the reputation of Congress, or at least the House.

Republicans are still hoping they can make a drive to retake the Senate, though, buoyed by the 23 seats, many of which are in swing states, that must be defended by Democrats.

Cornyn's acknowledged that the eventual Republican nominee and the state of the economy by next fall could shape the ultimate outcome of the race, but said he felt comfortable that voters would have ample opportunity to distinguish between the parties by the next election.

"I think voters will be given a pretty clear choice," he said.