October 3, 2007

NRSC Live Blog With John Ensign

Senator John Ensign joined a few bloggers to discuss current events. First, Chuck Schumer proposed today to raise taxes on the equity markets who helped raise funds for the DSCC. The more we see of the Democrats, Ensign says, the more we will see tax increases. Republicans traditionally trust families to make the best choices with their own money rather than government and calls this a fundamental difference between the two parties

He also acknowledged that the NRSC will have a tough road in 2008. He thinks that the GOP has an opportunity to do fairly well. Gordon Smith doesn't have a tough opponent on the horizon. Norm Coleman also has a pair of nonentities squaring off to face him, and Democrats are nervous about Al Franken's embarrassment factor. Maine looks solid, and says Susan Collins' constituents know her very well. John Sununu will be the toughest incumbent race, probably neck-and-neck with a huge amount of money spent there.

The retirements will create some problems. Virginia will be their toughest contest, and the GOP needs their best candidate to beat Mark Warner. Ensign feels much more confident about Nebraska, and thinks the GOP will beat Bob Kerrey, if he jumps into the race. Ensign predicts that Colorado will go with the Republicans, mostly because the Democrats have selected a candidate who is too liberal for Colorado.

Other races .... The GOP feels that they can beat Mary Landrieu. She's their #1 target. In South Dakota, Ensign saluted Tim Johnson's recovery but promised to run a vigorous campaign. They want to avoid a primary fight if they can.

Ensign could not comment on the report that Pete Domenici had decided to retire. He wants to wait for an official announcement before speculating on how the retirement might affect his calculations. He also would not speculate on potential candidates in Virginia, preferring to see which candidates arise from the field.

On S-CHIP, will this issue resonate with voters? Ensign believes the Republicans have a winning position on S-CHIP. Poor is not defined as an $84,000 salary, and an attempt to make it so will not sit well in areas where real poverty exists. Republicans want to continue to cover poor children and offered an alternative that would have done that. The alternative package, which relies on tax deductions and credits, has his support. He wants to keep the focus on private-market insurance.

Ensign also said that Hillary would help the NRSC's fundraising. The Democrats are outraising the Republicans, but the "current presumed nominee" would likely motivate donors in large numbers. That's probably an understatement.


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