Democratic Senate campaign leader says Republicans ought to be afraid

Democratic Senate campaign chief Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (N.J.) will rarely be mistaken for his predecessor, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge Liberal super PAC to run digital ads slamming Trump over Medicare comments MORE (N.Y.), but he expects to pick up right where Schumer left off, and he isn’t shy about predicting it.

Menendez sent a strong signal Thursday that he expects nothing less than more offense in the 2010 election cycle, as his party pursues 60 seats in the upper chamber.

At a press conference, the new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) chairman noted several key GOP-held open seats and also promised to have strong Democratic challengers to Republican Sens. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterThe biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins MORE (La.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrMarsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial GOP senator provides fidget spinners to Senate colleagues at lunch Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (N.C.), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Jim Bunning (Ky.).

 While Democrats will have to defend several seats filled by appointees, Menendez foreclosed the possibility of any additional Democratic open seats, saying all his remaining incumbents would run for reelection.

 Historically speaking, 2010 should be a tough year for Democrats, given an incumbent Democratic president and the party’s control of Congress, he noted. But he said that won’t be the case.

“It might be tempting to think that 2010 would be a tough year for Democrats, but even, I think, a cursory look at the map shows you that the fear has got to be on the other side of the aisle,” Menendez said.

 He spent much of his time criticizing Republicans for signaling that they will go after Democrats for the current stimulus package, which has passed with almost no GOP support.

 The stimulus has emerged as the first major campaign issue of the cycle.

 “The saddest and most dangerous thing is that they are, in essence, betting against President Obama and betting against the economic recovery that we are trying to create,” Menendez said. He called it a “recipe for failure.”

Menendez suggested that Republican senators and House members running for Senate would have to answer for the economic crisis the Obama administration inherited.

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said the last two years of Democratic control render that attack moot.

“Their worn-out and recycled attack ads with President Bush are now relics of the past,” Walsh said. “The reality is that the Democrats’ record of fiscal irresponsibility and support for tax increases will be a serious vulnerability for their incumbents next year.”

Menendez also suggested that Republican recruiting problems continue, specifically with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent passing on open-seat bids.

In both states, however, Republicans could have better options on the table, with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Missouri Rep. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDemocrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Trump team to present case for about two hours on Saturday GOP warns of 'drawn out' executive privilege battle over Bolton testimony  MORE both weighing campaigns.

Retirements weren’t expected to be an issue for Democrats, but the party will have to deal with elections for the seats of four former senators — Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

In those open seats, three of the four appointees could run for election, and all three face potential primary challenges.

 Menendez said he would “presume” that all three — Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetImpeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Sanders says it's 'disappointing' he's not on campaign trail in Iowa CNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary MORE (Colo.), Roland Burris (Ill.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandGOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (N.Y.) — will garner the support of the DSCC. Ted Kaufman of Delaware has said he would not seek election to Biden’s seat.

Among those considered potential Democratic retirements were Sens. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (Md.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.).

Several other Democratic senators are in ill health, however, which could lead to surprise retirements in the next two years.

Republicans could have five open seats to defend. Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and George Voinovich (Ohio) are retiring, while Sam Brownback (Kan.) is running for governor.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who withdrew his nomination for Commerce secretary on Thursday, said at a press conference he likely won’t run for reelection.

Menendez individually addressed most of the top states for 2010, including:

• New York, where he declined to
openly back the appointment of Gillibrand, whose conservative positions on issues like guns and illegal immigration have turned off liberal Democrats. He did say, however, that he thought many of those Democrats would come around to her.

When asked if New York Gov. David Paterson (D) picked the strongest candidate for 2010, Menendez said only: “I think Sen. Gillibrand is doing a fantastic job, and she has shown already why the governor had confidence in her.”

• Illinois, where appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D) will likely face a
primary if he runs for the seat in 2010. Menendez praised potential primary challenger Alexi Giannoulias as a “good public servant” whom he knows personally. Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment GOP senator calls for public health emergency over new coronavirus Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum MORE (D-Ill.) has raised eyebrows in recent days by also praising
Giannoulias, the young state treasurer.

• Connecticut, where recent polling has shown Dodd more vulnerable than ever, and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) looms as a potential challenger.

“I see a lot of paper moving around by the Republicans, but I don’t see any
candidates against him,” Menendez said.

• Missouri, whose secretary of state, Robin Carnahan (D), Menendez praised effusively, predicting she would be the next senator from the state.

Carnahan could still have a primary opponent in Rep. Lacy Clay, but Democratic leaders have effectively endorsed Carnahan.