Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), the No. 3 Democrat, argued Sunday on ABC's This Week that Democrats are "in a stronger and stronger position" while Republican missteps have left the GOP "sort of in a hole."
The Democrats have a 53-47 majority. Analysts note that the math favors Republicans to win it back in November. Dems are defending 23 seats to the GOP's 10, many of which are in red states they swept in the 2006 wave, and are expected to struggle to keep them in a weak economy. But recent events have shifted the landscape in Democrats' favor.
The retirement of longtime blue-state incumbent Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) could strip the GOP of a surefire seat. The decision by former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) to run for his old seat provides Democrats an opportunity to win in a red state that seemed out of the question. More broadly, the gradually improving jobs picture and the GOP's recent decision to wage a war over contraception could help Dems in close races all over the country, signs suggest.
"Democrats are focused like a laser on jobs, the economy, and the middle class," Schumer said. "Republicans, realizing that that's not their strong suit, are going off on these other things, women's issues and women's health and contraception. The women's vote, latest polls show we're up by 15 percent, because they want us to focus on the economy and the middle class, and we are doing it."
The trend lines in the economy are seen as a key determinant of the Democrats' odds of holding the Senate -- and indeed, the White House. Republicans, conscious of this, are looking to drive home the message that the economy remains weak and could be stronger with new leadership.
"This is an anemic recovery as a pretty long recession, 37 months in a row over 8 percent unemployment for the people in the United States, the longest streak since the Great Depression," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), on ABC News Sunday. "So the economy is anemic at best, and the policies of the president are going to make it impossible for this country to recover. Big things haven't happened very well on his watch."