Not so blue, according to Ken Mehlman. Speaking to a small group of center-right journalists at a breakfast sponsored by the American Spectator this morning, Mehlman said that if the election were held today Republicans would keep control of the Senate and probably the House as well. He acknowledged that this year’s environment is “challenging” for three main reasons — the three I focused on during the weekend: the six year itch (“a party in power collects barnacles),” the war in Iraq, and scandals in Congress.
On the other hand, Mehlman believes that four factors will help his party avoid a “tsunami” in three weeks. First, he and other Republican leaders “expected this” and planned for it. The RNC got people into the key states early and is well positioned to run its “ground game.” Second, the Republicans have a major advantage when it comes to resources. According to Mehlman, it has a $55.8 million cash advantage now, which will translate into very aggressive ad campaigns in the final three weeks. Third, the party and its candidates should be able to frame this election as a choice election, not a referendum. In other words, Mehlman expects the election not to be just an up-or-down vote on the president and the Congress, but also an election about key issues as to which Republicans have an advantage. He cited taxes, aggressive prosecution of the war on terror, and judges. Mehlman said these issues had been working well for Republicans until Foley pushed them to the side, and he expects them to return to the fore during the final three weeks.
Finally, Mehlman noted that “tsunami” elections are characterized by one-sided turnout in favor of one party. He doesn’t see the Dems benefiting from that this year. In fact, he says, in 36 of 39 Democratic primaries this year turnout was below average. Mehlman said he’s always worried about turnout, but does not expect a big Democratic advantage.
Mehlman denied reports that the party is effectively pulling out of Ohio and Pennsylvania. He said that resources get moved around depending on varying needs from state-to-state. Thus, a given “tool” or “resource” may be shifted from one state to another. But Mehlman insisted that the overall effort in Ohio and Pennsylvania remains strong.
JOHN adds: Real Clear Politics took a look at the New York Times’ report that the RNC is pulling out of Ohio, and found it wanting. The real story here appears to be that Senator DeWine has plenty of resources to do what he needs to do for the next three weeks.
PAUL adds: And the Los Angeles Times reports that, in Pennsylvania, the “GOP [is] on a mission to save Santorum” (though the Times reporter has a hard time distinguishing between “the GOP” and conservative groups).
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