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GOP Senate campaign head: '08 toughest election since '74

Goal is to limit losses to three Senate seats, says Sen. John Ensign of Nevada.

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Sen. John Ensign, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, paints a grim picture of his party's chances in the 2008 election.

At a Monitor-sponsored lunch with reporters Thursday, Senator Ensign said Republican candidates were facing the worst election climate since 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned as president. He volunteered that having Republicans reclaim the Senate would take a miracle and outlined a fundraising strategy based on frightening donors about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might attempt without Senate Republicans to block her.

Ensign, a two-term senator from Nevada, quipped that, "there wasn't a long line of people who wanted this job this election cycle and for good reason. It is probably the toughest election cycle ... since 1974." Ensign added that, "The other problem has been the number of Republican seats that are up." In the current election cycle, Republicans have to defend 23 seats, the Democrats only 12.

Given those numbers, "It would be fairly miraculous for us to get back in the majority. We are trying to be realistic on holding ... as close to where we are today as possible," Ensign said.

One reason for the grim outlook, Ensign noted, is that, "of the competitive races in the country, really seriously competitive races in the country, nine of the 10 of them currently are held by Republicans. So that basically means we are playing defense."

Independent political forecasters put likely Republican losses in the Senate at anywhere from three to seven Senate seats. Ensign said losing three seats "would be a great night ... it would be a terrific night for us absolutely." He said losing four seats "is kind of where we have set our absolute worst goal."

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