If campaigns are about setting expectations, then Sen. John Ensign is aiming low while Sen. Charles Schumer is trying to shoot the moon.
In a lunch with Washington reporters, Ensign, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, warned that this is the "toughest election cycle for Republicans ... since 1974." Ensign says he's even telling safe Republican senators up for re-election like Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that they "better run scared." Ensign adds that losing three seats is his baseline expectation and anything less than that would be a great election night for Republicans.
Ensign's blunt comments come the same day that Schumer (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, started talking landslide in an interview published in Roll Call. Schumer believes Democrats have a shot at winning 11 Senate seats held by Republicans and at a minimum will win five. A sweep of competitive Senate races _ which most neutral observers believe is a serious long shot _ would give Democrats a filibuster proof majority and usher in an unimpeded liberal agenda if Barack Obama is elected president.
All of which scares the hell out of Ensign, who warned during the Thursday luncheon that Obama's liberal agenda might help politically vulnerable GOP senators like Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and hurt Democrats like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Ensign said that as long as Senate Democrats are held under the magic number of 60, then "Senate Republicans will be the fire wall to either stop legislation ... or to carry out a more moderate position."
Ensign spoke at the regular Christian Science Monitor sponsored lunch at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington.
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