Menendez: Sarah Palin dooms Carly Fiorina and GOP chance of retaking Senate

DSCC Chief Robert Menendez said Sarah Palin’s ties to California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina will prove fatal for Fiorina’s election chances and the GOP odds of regaining a majority in the Senate.

Harry Hamburg/AP/File
At a Monitor Breakfast, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, said that Sarah Palin has made it likely that the Democrats will retain a majority in the US Senate in the 2010 elections.

Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina’s statement that she shares Sarah Palin’s values is one reason the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) says his party will keep control of the US Senate in the 2010 elections.

When DSCC Chair Robert Menendez was asked at a Monitor breakfast what he thought the chances were that his party would lose its senate majority, he called the idea “wishful thinking on behalf of Republicans.”

The New Jersey senator went on to list events that would need to occur for the Democrats to lose their senate majority, which now stands at 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans, and two Independents.

What would have to happen

“They have to win every one of their – their – open seats. They have to win all six. They have to defend a couple of their most vulnerable incumbents in North Carolina and in Louisiana. And after that they have to pick up 10 seats. I just do not see that under any set of circumstances,” Senator Menendez told a room filled with reporters Wednesday.

In Pictures: Who are the 12 U.S. Senators retiring in 2010?

One reason Democrats should be able to hold the Senate, he said, was that Republican candidates faced primary challenges and were forced to move right, a direction that Menendez thinks will hurt them in the general election. “Look at what they have done in their primaries. You have got people moving further and further to the right," he said.

A California example

He specifically cited the race being run by Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, for the California Senate seat now held by Barbara Boxer. “They have huge primaries that drive them in the wrong direction. When you have Carly Fiorina traveling California saying she shares Sarah Palin’s values, it gives you a sense of what those Republican primaries are doing. I don’t know how that sells in the general election in California,” Menendez said.

In addition to what he called “ugly blood-letting” in primaries, Menendez also noted that Republicans tied to the Bush administration would have trouble selling themselves as agents of change. He added that Republican senatorial candidates had to cope with “a battered brand” for their party, and were losing the fund-raising race to Democrats.

Democratic woes

Democratic senatorial candidates face challenges, Menendez admitted. “Going back to the Civil War, the president’s party normally faces challenges in mid-term elections, except for three times in history. And after two cycles of big Democratic wins, obviously we know the cards are somewhat stacked against us. What’s more is that we know there is tremendous economic anxiety out in the country right now. The voters are understandably impatient,” he said.

Signs of those challenges include Democrats’ loss of Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat, the retirements of Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and North Dakota's Byron Dorgan, and the decision by Vice President Biden’s son, Beau, not to run for the Senate in Delaware.

Menendez said he disagreed with the conclusion by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report that shows as many as 10 Senate seats now held by Democrats are in play. “Assuming that Republcians hold all of their own vulnerable seats, it is mathematically possible for the GOP to pick up the 10 seats they would need to hit 51 and win the majority, but it remains a very tall order,” the Cook Report (no relation) said.

New offensive coming

The DSCC plans to launch a new offensive in the next few days, Menendez said, “asking Republicans, 'Where are your ideas?’ On the eve of the bipartisan healthcare summit, we will be challenging every Republican senate candidate by name to show voters what they want to do on healthcare. We hear a lot of complaints, a lot of trash talk, but we don’t hear any constructive ideas.”

In Pictures: Who are the 12 U.S. Senators retiring in 2010?

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