Cornyn: August 'disaster' helped GOP


National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) will inform colleagues on Tuesday that the August recess gave Republicans a new advantage heading into the 2010 elections.

In a memo to Republican senators, Cornyn calls the summer break “nothing short of a disaster for our Democrat colleagues” that put momentum behind the GOP. After beginning the cycle with more retirements and vulnerable incumbents than Democrats had, Cornyn notes: “What a difference a couple of months makes.”

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“President Obama is now attempting to press the reset button for the third time on the healthcare debate with his joint address to Congress this week,” Cornyn writes in the memo. “Republicans agree with the president that both parties need to work together to rein in out-of-control healthcare costs. We agree the status quo is unsustainable.

“But we do not agree that the way to solve that problem is to raise costs, destroy jobs and put government bureaucrats in charge of decisions that should be made by patients and doctors,” he added. “Judging by the reaction from citizens across the country this summer, the American people agree with us.”

Cornyn will point to several specific races where Democrats have slipped while Republicans have scored recruiting successes. In the last month, Rep. Mark Kirk (R) announced he would run for an open seat in Illinois; Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) made his bid official and leads both his potential Democratic challengers; and at least one prominent candidate has stepped forward against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who was previously seen as unbeatable.

Meanwhile, candidates who were already in their respective races are outperforming their Democratic foes. Rep. Roy Blunt (R) outraised Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) in Missouri; ex-Rep. Pat Toomey (R) has pulled closer to Sen. Arlen Specter (D) in Pennsylvania; and former Rep. Rob Portman (R) continues to benefit from a fractured Democratic primary field in Ohio.

The party has potentially strong recruits on the hook in Colorado, where former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton (R) is considering running; in New Hampshire, where ex-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) is exploring a bid; and in California, where former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) is pondering running. Ayotte and Fiorina are all but in their races.

Though Republicans did not score an A-list recruit, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) remains unpopular in Nevada, with a recent poll showing two little-known candidates each outpacing the Senate majority leader.

And though Cornyn does not include either candidate in the memo, the NRSC continues to tout the possibility that Gov. John Hoeven (R) will challenge Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and that Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) will run for Vice President Joe Biden’s old Senate seat in Delaware.

Polls have shown both Hoeven and Dorgan with big leads in a hypothetical matchup, but the NRSC remains hopeful it can coax him into the race. Privately, the GOP feels more confident that Castle will run in Delaware, setting up a possible showdown with Attorney General Beau Biden, the vice president's son.

Still, trailing in the money race and with at least five open seats to defend, Cornyn said his party remains the underdog.

“While the overall political climate has improved markedly for Republicans since January, the election is still 14 months away, which is a lifetime in politics,” he writes in the memo. “While we have the momentum on our side right now, it is also important to recognize that 2010 remains an uphill climb for us.”