Transcript: Face to Face with Rob Jesmer

Bob Schieffer: Welcome to Face to Face. This is our weekly webcast brought to you by the folks who bring you Face the Nation every Sunday on television. Rob Jesmer, who is the Executive Director of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is basically the outfit that is the main fundraiser for Republican Senate candidates. So Rob, let's talk a little bit first about Dick Lugar. I don't think anybody - very many -people would say that Dick Lugar was not a fine Senator for the state of Indiana and in fact one of the most productive senators in the U.S. Senate right now. Frankly I cannot think of a senator right now who passed or is responsible for more significant legislation than Dick Lugar, at least among those who are there now. So what does this mean that he gets beat in the primary? 

Rob Jesmer: Well Bob, look, I think Sen. Lugar clearly is an American statesman and he did a great job serving Indiana and he'll be missed. But I also think elections have consequences, we have them all the time. I think back to Sen. Arlen Specter who had a long career, was defeated in the Democratic primary last cycle. This stuff happens. And the reality is Richard Mourdock ran a great campaign and he deserved to win. He's elected state treasurer, he's got a good platform that I think people are hungry for new blood in Washington and I think he struck a tone with Hoosiers. And Sen. Cornyn, my boss, looks forward to serving with him in the Senate in six months. 

Bob Schieffer: When you say he ran a good campaign and deserved to win, what do you mean? 

Rob Jesmer: I just think, look, he went out and spoke to the people of Indiana about issues that they cared about, about the size of government about the debt. We have six trillion dollars in the debt - we put on the tab. And I think that resonated with people and I think, obviously it resonated with people he won overwhelmingly. And so he deserves to win and we look forward to working with him and helping him get here in six months. 

Bob Schieffer: Do you think he'll be a stronger candidate as Dick Lugar would have been in the general election? Because he always enjoyed such bi-partisan support. 

Rob Jesmer: Well Bob, we'll never know. All I know is that, Richard Mourdock, this is a Republican state. This is Mike Pence who's going to be the next governor. Obviously Gov. Daniels has run there successfully and you know we're running against the guy who is basically, is the same kind of person we ran against two years ago in Joe Donnelly when Brad Ellsworth who won and lost by 18 points to Dan Coats and I just don't think that people of Indiana, Hoosiers, are going to support somebody who supported healthcare, who supported the president's stimulus, supported Nancy Pelosi for speaker. These kinds of things are not going to go well in Indiana, so Richard Mourdock's going to win and we look forward to helping him do that. 

Bob Schieffer: Let's talk about the broad landscape, that's your job - to help Republicans get elected to the Senate. There are 33 seats up and what, twenty - how many held by Democrats? 

Rob Jesmer: There's 23 Democratic seats up and 10 Republican seats up. 

Bob Schieffer: And the Democrats have got their work cut out for them. But, you had a couple of, well, now Lugar gets beat. Olympia Snowe said she was not going to seek reelection. It's going to be harder than it looked like it might have been for Republicans going into this, I think. 

Rob Jesmer: Yeah Bob, I think we always felt like this was going to be a challenge. It's not easy beating incumbent Senators. And certainly when Sen. Snowe retired it was, you know that makes the seat more difficult for us to hold just like when Sen. Kohl retired and Sen. Conrad and others, Sen. Bingaman all these other Senators - Sen. Akaka on the Democratic side. So when there's retirements, it opens, that makes an open seat and that makes more work.  But I think generally we feel very good about where we are right now. I think Sen. Tester's on the run, Sen. McCaskill, North Dakota, Nebraska - these are all seats where clearly the president's going to lose and lose big. Indiana can add to that margin - add to that list. And so, we feel like there's enough seats on the, we're only really defending Sen. Brown and Sen. Heller in Nevada, who's settled into a nice lead. And obviously we have Maine, which you have to deal with. But the amount of seats that we have to worry about is far less than the Democrats. 

Bob Schieffer: What do you  think are going to be, what's your toughest challenge out there? 

Rob Jesmer: Look, in the advent - I would just say in general from a technical point of view in the advent of the Super PACs you now have campaigns lose control of their narratives and what we try and tell campaigns is, "try being in control of your narrative and have a rationale for your candidacy." You know, we're running against smart people who are very well-funded. 

Bob Schieffer: Well which ones do you think are going to be the toughest? 

Rob Jesmer: I mean, clearly, we have, Sen. Brown's going to have a tough race in Massachusetts. He knows it, we know it. I think we got a break in the last ten days when Elizabeth Warren, you know, was exposed that she noted she was a Native American which, there's still - I would note, Bob - no evidence that she's a Native American that she's produced. Which I think most people think she did, she checked a box so she could get a job that others, to give her a leg up that others maybe would have deserved. 

Bob Schieffer: So that's one - that's going to be  tough. 

Rob Jesmer: Yeah, it's going to be tough. But all these things are tough. I think Sen. Heller's in pretty good shape right now. 

Bob Schieffer: Now where is that? 

Rob Jesmer: That's in Nevada. But I think we are, we are on offense in North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Montana, Wisconsin - we're very encouraged by Wisconsin. We're very encouraged about New Mexico, and frankly we're encouraged about Hawaii a state where the president's going to probably get 65 percent of the vote and we have a very good candidate running and we have a very good chance of winning in Linda Lingle. So we're on, I think they have more to deal with than we do. 

Bob Schieffer: Do you think you'll take the Senate? 

Rob Jesmer: Bob, I think we've got a great chance of taking the Senate. 

Bob Schieffer: That would be, you'd have to get what, four? 

Rob Jesmer: We have to get four seats. Obviously if the president lost we'd have to get three seats, but we're shooting for four seats right now. 

Bob Schieffer: What do you think will be your easiest? 

Rob Jesmer: Well, I mean, I've said for a long time I think Sen. McCaskill's enjoying her last six months in the Senate. I think North Dakota and Nebraska, these are states where the president's going to win by - lose by 15 or 16 points. I think we're going to win there. But Bob, look, I'm a realist. None of these are easy at the end of the day. We work hard here with our campaigns. Sen. Cornyn's traveling all across the country. 

Bob Schieffer: How much does a presidential candidate, the candidate atop the ticket, how much does that matter in Senate races? 

Rob Jesmer: I think it depends on the state. But clearly, it depends on the state, Bob. But I think in general the better-run the presidential campaign is obviously it helps everyone else. And I think Romney's doing a great job, the Romney campaign is, we've got a lot of friends up there. I think he's got a real good shot of  winning and that's going to help us in a lot of places. 

Bob Schieffer: How do you see the presidential race right now? 

Rob Jesmer: I'm a little surprised at the arrogance of the Obama campaign. They seem to feel like they had this thing won already and I looked  at Gallup yesterday and we were down, excuse me, I think Gov. Romney was up one point on the president. They've had basically a free reign, we've had a bumpy road in the primary  process. They spent 150 million bucks six months out and we're up by a point according to Gallup. And battleground poll is very encouraging. So that's going to be a very competitive race, very competitive. But if I was Gov. Romney's team I'd feel very good about where they are right now. 

Bob Schieffer: Thank you very much and best of luck to your candidates down the road. And that is Face to Face, and don't forget to watch Face the Nation this Sunday on television.