Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, leader of the Democratic Senate campaign, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that his party will do better than expected in the Nov. 2 elections.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Welcome back. Senator Robert Menendez is at our Bloomberg studios in New York. Thank you for being with us, senator.
SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ: Good to be with you, Al.
HUNT: The eve of the big midterm elections. Mike Allen in his Playbook says the Republicans will pick up at least eight Senate seats next Tuesday. What’s your prediction?
MENENDEZ: Well, I believe that we will, number one, be in the majority in the Senate as Democrats after November 2nd. And I think that, just like this election cycle has been one of enormous change and surprises - who would have believed that Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate would have lost in Kentucky or that several Republican incumbent senators would have been drummed out of their party, Charlie Crist would have been drummed out of his party? So I think there are more surprises, and I think we may very well do better than that.
HUNT: Yeah, we don’t want to go into a lot of individual races, but there is one that’s especially interesting, Alaska. Strange race up there. The Republican primary victor Joe Miller is enmeshed in scandal, dropping polls. Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent, running as a write-in, hasn’t been done in 56 years.
You represent Atlantic City, where they know something about probability and odds. What are the odds that Scott McAdams, the little-known mayor of Sitka, could actually win that Alaska seat?
MENENDEZ: Well, McAdams is doing an excellent job. And, you know - you know, the Tea Party candidate has plummeted because he’s more about an ideological perspective. Lisa Murkowski is about leadership, Republican leadership in the Senate. McAdams is all about Alaska. And so I think that’s -
HUNT: So you think he can win?
MENENDEZ: - going to sell on Election Day.
HUNT: You think McAdams will win?
MENENDEZ: I think he has a real shot of winning. And, you know, every poll shows that he has risen dramatically. My colleague from Alaska, you know, the Democratic senator from Alaska, Mark Begich, thinks he has an excellent opportunity to win. I think he has a great opportunity to win.
HUNT: We - we have a Bloomberg poll out this morning that says by 2 to 1 voters think taxes have gone up in the past year, economy is shrinking, and the government won’t get most of its money back from rescuing Wall Street banks. In fact, as you know, taxes have been cut, the government’s going to get that money back, and the economy is growing.
Isn’t the fact that Americans don’t know any of that an indictment of the White House?
MENENDEZ: Well, certainly, it is a challenge in these times to get the messaging to break through, though the realities are we’ve gotten virtually all of our money back from the bailout, we see GDP growth -
HUNT: But why do you think the White House has done such a poor job in conveying that message?
MENENDEZ: Well, you know, what happens is, is that we had an incredibly aggressive agenda for the first two years of this administration. And before anything could sink in about what was being accomplished, we were on to the next issue. And I think that has created a consequence for us as individuals in our country not knowing the realities of that - what things were and how they’ve become so much better.
Still a lot of work to do for a lot of Americans to get a job, but we’re moving in the right direction. And that’s what we’ve had our candidates make the contrast in these elections. That’s why in the midst of midterm election history, which means the president’s party loses seats, we are going to be in the majority on Election Day.
HUNT: Senator, do you think the congressional Democratic leaders made a mistake in not taking up that tax bill in September, where it’s a non-issue in most campaigns, it’s not hurting Republicans, and taxes are scheduled to go up for all Americans in January?
MENENDEZ: Well, I was one of those who advocated having a vote, because I wanted to show that Democrats stood on the side of middle-class taxpayers, working people in our country, and overwhelmingly want to make those tax cuts permanent, not just temporary in nature, as the Bush tax cuts did. They had a sunset day. We would have made them permanent in nature for everyone making a quarter of a million dollars or less.
HUNT: So a mistake in not bringing it up?
MENENDEZ: And so I think it would have been a good opportunity.
HUNT: Yeah. And how about a lame-duck session, which you’re going to have? Do you think a tax cut - the tax cut extension will be enacted then, in what shape?
MENENDEZ: Well, I certainly hope that we do get to the tax cuts at the end of the year when we have the lame-duck session. But, Al, the lame-duck session is either going to be rather lame or it’s going to be a pretty strong one, depending upon how Republicans view it.
If they win seats and think they’ll be in a better position in January of next year, they may very well not want to get anything done. If we look at it as an opportunity to, you know, after the elections, after the partisanship to move forward, then there’s some real opportunities. That’s going to depend upon the Republican view, because, of course, you know, they have the filibuster opportunity, which they’ve used over 100 times in the last year alone.
HUNT: Senator, Vice President Biden and some others have complained about Republican money in this campaign, yet the Center for Responsive Politics says, when you put it all together, that the Democratic Party committees -yours is doing a good job, and you take all the outside groups, Democrats are still outspending Republicans in this campaign. Isn’t - aren’t you more than holding your own on money?
MENENDEZ: Well, look, the reality is, is that everything that we spend is fully attributed and transparent and the voters know where the money comes from. What’s happened is we’ve had anywhere between $44 million and $46 million just against Senate Democrats by unknown corporate interests, and they’re not spending $46 million to be civic-minded.
They’re spending $46 million to promote their special interests, and whether that’s undoing Wall Street reform or whether that is about the insurance companies wanting to go back to denying people arbitrarily and capriciously, or Big Oil wanting to drill without mitigation, they’re buying an agenda, and that’s what’s really wrong with this process.
HUNT: OK, Senator Menendez, let me ask you a final question. When we wake up next Wednesday morning, give me one surprise, one prediction where the conventional wisdom will have proven wrong and a Republican will not win a Senate race that we’re all saying that they’re going to win now.
MENENDEZ: Well, I think you’re - you’ll see it in Illinois, where Mark Kirk, you know, everybody believes that he can win. I think Alexi Giannoulias will win that race and will add another Democratic seat to the victory margin on November 2nd.
HUNT: Okay. Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate campaign committee, thank you very much for being with us. And when we return, the background, Pennsylvania, we’ll have Margaret Carlson and Kate O’Beirne’s final prediction, right after the break.
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