After gains, Cornyn likely to stay on as head of NRSC

Sen. John Cornyn is likely to sign up for another election cycle as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, say GOP sources.

Cornyn has won plaudits from colleagues for his fundraising and the gain of six Republican Senate seats on Election Day.

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NRSC spokesman said Cornyn won’t make a final decision for another few days, but Senate GOP aides widely expect him to take the helm in 2012. Aides say he wants to help Republicans win control of the Senate, a realistic prospect in an election cycle when 21 Democrats — and two independents allied with the Democrats — face reelection.

“He's considering it but is taking a few days with his family and will be talking to his colleagues in the days ahead,” said Brian Walsh, NRSC spokesman.

Under Cornyn’s leadership, the committee raised about $93 million between the beginning of last year and mid-October. The committee raised $78.2 million during a similar span in the 2008 election cycle and $77.9 in the 2006 cycle.

The committee raised $14.2 million in October, the best fundraising month for the committee since the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act.

Cornyn closed the fundraising gap with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which outraised the NRSC by about $70 million in 2008.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who is facing reelection in 2012, has praised Cornyn’s work.

Hutchison told The Houston Chronicle that Cornyn did a “tremendous job.”

Former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) has even floated Cornyn’s name as a promising presidential candidate in 2012.

“Cornyn has been NRSC chairman and has done a very effective job with it,” Martinez told The Hill in a telephone interview last month. “He’s raised a lot of money and made contacts throughout the country.”

Some conservatives, however, have criticized Cornyn for not doing more to help Tea Party-favored candidates such as Christine O’Donnell. They have questioned the failure to pick up more seats, especially the one held by Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in Colorado.

Some critics have also questioned his decision to pour $8 million into California, a staunchly liberal state, in an effort to defeat Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Marc A. Thiessen, a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, called the move a gamble in a recent Washington Post op-ed.

“This gamble comes at a cost,” Thiessen wrote. “The NRSC's $8 million investment in California dwarfs its spending in any other state.”

Thiessen noted that, “by the time the election is over, the committee estimates it will have spent roughly $6 million in Colorado, $5.5 million in Pennsylvania, $5 million in Illinois, $5 million in Washington State, $3.2 million in West Virginia, $2.5 million in Kentucky, $2 million in Nevada, and $1 million in Alaska.”

Earlier this year, Cornyn took flack from Tea Party conservatives for supporting more centrist candidates in GOP primaries in Colorado, Delaware, Florida and Kentucky.

The Tea Party-backed candidates who won the nomination went on to triumph in the general election in Florida and Kentucky but fell short in Colorado and Delaware.

Cornyn’s allies like to point out that Republicans were expected to lose seats in the 2010 cycle when he took over the committee after the 2008 election.

Cornyn downplayed the chances of Republicans winning control of the Senate this year, managing expectations while the GOP was poised for a huge gain of House seats.

He told colleagues during a fall meeting at the NRSC headquarters on 2nd Street, NE, that 2010 would be a steppingstone to the next cycle, when they would have better odds of capturing the majority.

Many of this year’s Senate campaigns were fought on territory friendly to Democrats. Obama won 12 of the 16 Senate battleground states.

Cornyn could take full credit for restoring Senate Republicans to majority power if he serves as NRSC chairman for two more years.

The expectation that Cornyn will continue in his post for another two years gives Senate Republicans valuable stability at the NRSC. It also gives them a helpful degree of certainty.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is struggling to find a colleague to head the DSCC.

Many Democrats elected in 2008 have withdrawn their names from consideration. Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) have said they’re not interested in the job.

There has been a growing drumbeat among Democrats for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who chaired the committee in the 2006 and 2008 cycles, to take the job again. Schumer resisted the idea when it was floated before the election by he has not commented on the prospect since Nov. 2.