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Fight For the Senate: Dole vs. Schumer

In the final stretch of any campaign year, the two national parties engage in a seemingly endless war of words -- fighting for even the smallest of rhetorical edges.

Sen. Charles Schumer
Sen. Schumer says Democrats are "on the edge" of retaking the Senate. (AP)

An event today at the National Press Club was no exception. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Elizabeth Dole (N.C.) appeared on the same stage to offer remarkably similar arguments about the coming elections. Needless to say, they drew very different conclusions about the likely results.

"Republican candidates have nowhere to turn," said Schumer. "They are in a little room where all the doors are locked."

Dole, doing a bit of preelection damage control, said repeatedly that the difficult political environment had complicated her job almost from the start. It has been "very tough for Republicans for many months," she added.

Both Schumer and Dole agreed that the war in Iraq was the single biggest issue for voters in states with targeted Senate races. Schumer noted that Democrats running in Republican-leaning states like Virginia and Tennessee are airing political ads calling for a change of direction in Iraq. In contrast, he said, you'll see no GOP candidates mentioning the conflict in their ads.

Dole shot back that Rep. Mark Kennedy (R), who is running for an open Senate seat in Minnesota, is up with an ad that directly addresses the war.

Dole accused Schumer and other Democrats of playing politics with the war -- echoing statements made by President Bush and other Republican leaders that leaving Iraq now would further destabilize the Middle East and encourage countries like Syria and Iran. "Voting for a Democrat in a Senate race will certainly not be a quick fix to the situation in Iraq," said Dole.

In his remarks, Schumer focused on a message of change, which, if polling is to be believed, should be enough to hand Democrats control of the House and even possibly the Senate.

On a race-by-race basis, Schumer insisted the fight for control had come down to Tennessee, Missouri and Virginia -- three Republican-leaning states where polling shows tight races. "Both sides now admit the battleground states are the border states," he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole
Sen. Dole says Maryland and New Jersey are possible GOP pick-ups this year. (AP)

Not so fast, according to Dole. She touted a new Republican poll that showed Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) within three points of Rep. Ben Cardin (D) in the Maryland open seat race and expressed optimism about New Jersey where the NRSC is set to go on television tomorrow, according to an informed source.

The bottom line? Schumer repeated his mantra that Democrats are on "the edge" of a takeover, adding quickly: "It is hardly a certainty." (Ah, expectations setting at its finest.)

Dole asserted that Republicans will retain their majority status but avoided a specific seat prediction.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 25, 2006; 5:02 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: Congressional Countdown: 3 More Seats Lean Democratic

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