Republicans Look To Capitalize On Senate Retirments

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Right after Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd announced they are retiring, Republican strategists began examining how the party could claim those seats — and others — in the midterm elections. Republican pollster Ed Goeas tells host Guy Raz why he thinks his party can make big gains in Congress this fall.

We asked Menendez's counterpart, Texas Senator John Cronyn, the head of the Republican Senatorial Committee, to talk about his party's prospects in 2010. He was unavailable, so we called Ed Goeas, one of the best known Republican strategists in the country to give us a sense of how the party expects to do this fall.

Ed Goeas, welcome to the program.

Mr. ED GOEAS (Republican Pollster; President/CEO, The Tarrance Group): Oh, thank you, Guy. Glad to be here.

RAZ: You just heard Senator Menendez acknowledging the obvious, that the party in power almost always takes a hit...

Mr. GOEAS: Right.

RAZ: the midterm elections. But there has been so much ink spilled over these Democratic retirements, we've almost forgotten that there are more longtime incumbent Republican senators not running for reelection.

Mr. GOEAS: You know, I'm working in several of those races that he mentioned. Particularly, the Ohio race, we're running ahead. In New Hampshire, we have a good solid lead ahead. I heard a lot of wishful thinking on the part of the senator when he was talking about the various races.

The numbers are not good for the Democrats. We did a survey with actually Democrat pollster, Celinda Lake, the battleground poll right before they broke for Christmas. And at that point, we were finding Republican intensity 13 points higher than the intensity of Democratic voters. The independent voters actually more intense. Quite frankly, in the off non-presidential year election, it's more the angry independents that vote.

RAZ: Ed Goeas, let me ask you about a point Senator Menendez raised, which is the internal challenge within the Republican Party from the right. And we see it most acutely in Florida, where Governor Charlie Crist could lose the Republican nomination for the Senate seat to a far more conservative candidate, Marco Rubio. Democrats are arguing if that happens they'll be well-placed to win that seat because Rubio is too conservative for Florida. Isn't this a problem for Republicans?

Mr. GOEAS: No, not at all. In fact, that is probably the only race you could point to where there's a major competition between what is being portrayed as a more conservative candidate versus a moderate candidate. I think portraying him as just a conservative candidate is really selling him short. He is one of the younger, more aggressive conservatives, yes. But he also has a great deal of experience in the state legislature down in Florida, and is really touching a lot of positive notes.

RAZ: The Democrats now have 58 seats in the Senate, plus two members, independent members who caucus with them. Which seats will the Republicans be focusing on closely?

Mr. GOEAS: Well, I think in Connecticut, it's still a little bit hard to tell with Dodd out. That was obviously the most vulnerable seat. I think if you look at North Dakota, with Dorgan out, that is almost a probably win for Republicans at this point; Colorado, looking very good with Republicans, both with the Democratic governor not running for reelection and the appointed senator in the state there. Harry Reid, out in Nevada, he is not able to be Nevada's senator over the last couple of years. He's now the Democratic leader. So there's just a handful right there.

RAZ: That's Ed Goeas. He's the president of The Tarrance Group. It's a Republican research and strategy firm.

Ed Goeas, thank you so much.

Mr. GOEAS: Thank you, Guy.

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