By Justin Sink
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said he felt "really good" about the upcoming midterm elections, in an interview published the day after Democrats suffered a stinging loss in a Florida district the president carried twice.
"There’s no question that these are obviously going to be tough fights, but we’re ready to have them, and I feel really good about it," McDonough told GQ magazine.
"They’ve established pretty clearly what they’re against. It’s time for them to establish something that they’re for. And you’ll hear the president out there talking about what he’s for," McDonough said.
Earlier Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney argued that the president's signature healthcare law was "not the decisive factor" in Republican David Jolly's victory over Democrat Alex Sink to fill the seat of the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.).
"Any fair assessment of the role that the debate about the Affordable Care Act played reaches the conclusion that at best for the Republicans, it was a draw," Carney said.
He also rejected the notion that the Florida race would serve as a bellwether for the 2014 elections.
In 2006, Democrats lost every competitive special election and went on to pick up 31 seats in November. In 2010, when House Democrats would go on to lose 63 seats and control the chamber in the fall, they won every single competitive special election," Carney said. "It's a single race."
Democrats still face tough odds in their quest to pick up seats in the House and to protect their majority in the Senate. In the Senate, Democrats are defending 21 of the 36 seats up this fall, and seven of those races are in states that lean red. Democrats can only afford to lose six seats and retain their majority.
McDonough sat for the interview with GQ as part of the White House's bid to attract younger, healthier consumers to the ObamaCare exchanges. He told the magazine that young men tended to believe they were "indestructible," but were still susceptible to catastrophic injuries that could bankrupt them.
He also acknowledged that "we had a rough October and November" with the botched rollout of the ObamaCare website.
"What we believe is that people want health care, and that’s true whether you’re a so-called invincible or whether you’re a 44-year-old dude like me," McDonough said. "And when you get a clear shot at it, I think people take it."