Cornyn’s tough job

Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has one of the toughest jobs in Washington.

The Texan is tasked with getting more Republicans in the upper chamber after Democrats picked up a net of 13 seats over the last four years (14 if Al Franken is counted).

Cornyn appears up to the task. He is an impressive fundraiser and has come out swinging, hitting Democrats like an NRSC chief should do. Cornyn has repeatedly attacked Democrats for their handling of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) appointment of Roland Burris, setting the stage for a challenge to the new Illinois senator in 2010.

But a lot of bad news has greeted Cornyn in his first few weeks on the job.

Sens. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) are retiring, while Senate Democrats are staying put. This is not Cornyn’s fault, but is another sign that the Senate GOP will be the minority for years to come because, as a group, Republicans have lost their hunger for the political fight.

In 2008, then-NRSC Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) publicly blasted his colleagues for stinginess.

Throughout the 2008 cycle, he practically begged GOP senators to transfer campaign cash to his committee’s coffers, but senators were more concerned with stockpiling cash for their next reelection bid than helping others.

Democrats, by contrast, turned their minority into a majority with a team effort. Soon after he took over the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) persuaded incumbent Democrats in red states to seek reelection and refused to take no for an answer on DSCC dues.

Democrats have not reached the magic number of 60 (even with Franken), but they could reach that figure in 2010. Political winds shift quickly, but there are more endangered Republicans than Democrats, such as Sens. Jim Bunning (Ky.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.).

Some Senate Democrats will also be sweating in the fall of next year, but the landscape is grim for the GOP.

For a moment, Republicans need to not think about open seats, fundraising and the effect President-elect Obama will have on the midterms. If they are serious about climbing back to the top of the mountain, Senate Republicans must coalesce and become more of a cohesive unit.

There is a tired cliché in sports noting that there is no “I” in team. But the letter can be found in “minority.”