White House press secretary Jay Carney predicted Tuesday that Democrats would keep their majority in the Senate after the 2014 midterm elections, despite playing defense in a number of tough races.
"The Democratic Party is not going to lose control of the Senate, in our view," Carney said.
Carney said the party would prevail "precisely because" the president and Democratic lawmakers "are focused on expanding opportunity as opposed to repealing" policy items like ObamaCare.
"The president feels very strongly that that approach is one that, broadly speaking, the American people support," he said.
Democrats are defending 21 of the 36 Senate seats up this fall, and election watchers widely expect the party to lose seats. Republicans need just six seats to flip to win control. Democrats in red states like South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana have retired, and Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are facing tough races.
Some of those vulnerable lawmakers have opted against traveling with Obama to recent events in their home states. Others have openly criticized the president — evidence that he might hurt than help them in tough elections.
In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the upper chamber, warned that conservative activists were spending heavily even months ahead of the election.
"We're faced with a grim reality that more money is being spent earlier in some of these hot races than we've ever seen," Durbin said. "We're spending some, but we can't keep up with them."
Former White House adviser David Axelrod echoed that concern.
"This is a serious threat," Axelrod told the Times. "It would behoove Democratic activists and donors who are whipped up about 2016 to shift their focus, or they may be sitting here in November, looking at a Republican Senate to go along with the House."
Carney dismissed concerns that the president's signature healthcare law would be a weight around Democratic candidates. Most Republican candidates have telegraphed their intention to highlight ObamaCare during the campaign, and many vulnerable Democrats have criticized the law.
"I think that, as a general principle, without gaming out election strategies, it's a difficult case to make despite the well-documented polling data on "ObamaCare" for Republicans to say they want to take away the benefits that the Affordable Care Act provides," Carney said.
The press secretary said supporters of the law could ask critics how they would maintain popular provisions, like those which prevented price discrimination due to preexisting conditions or gender, or allowed children to stay on their parents' plans through the age of 26.
"These are benefits that the repeal effort would take away. They're concrete. They're real," Carney said.