WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was bullish on Wednesday on the Democratic Party's chances in the 2012 election, saying the party is likely to keep incumbents in office and pick up a few others.
"I think it's moving in the right direction," he said during a breakfast at moderate think tank Third Way. "It's almost impossible to say we'll lose the Senate, unless the roof falls in."
Schumer, who is the number three leader among Senate Democrats, said Democrats would win by sticking to an anti-Tea Party message, blaming the movement for blocking major jobs legislation in both houses. Democrats plan to blame "Tea Party economics" for holding up bills that would aid the economy, he wrote in a memo released on Wednesday.
By blaming the Tea Party, Schumer said Democrats may be able to pick up "a seat or two" in Indiana, Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts, where Democrat Elizabeth Warren is taking on Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
"In a certain sense it's sort of a sword and a shield. The sword is our effort to create things on jobs and the shield is that what's preventing us from moving forward is Tea Party economics," he said. "The Tea Party has a strangle hold on the Republican party. ... They're weakening the economy in the short term by not letting us do things that economists want."
Republicans have taken a different tack than Democrats on economic growth, arguing that deficit reduction, spending cuts and deregulation will make a dent in unemployment and raise income levels for the middle class. Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for infrastructure spending and a payroll tax break to stimulate the economy as part of a jobs bill released by President Barack Obama.
The Democratic Party, particularly in the Senate, is hammering the point that Republicans oppose the president's jobs bill. They received some evidence for this argument Tuesday evening, when Senate Republicans voted against moving forward with Obama's American Jobs Act.
Of course, a handful of Senate Democrats also oppose the bill in its current form. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) voted against moving forward with the bill, while Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) voted for it but said they had concerns about the bill that they hoped to address later.
Schumer took issue with reports that Democrats had failed by barely securing a simple majority vote on the president's jobs bill.
"It wasn't that easy to get to 51," he said. "The idea that this is a major setback is wrong."
Democratic leaders now plan to take on the jobs bill piece by piece, attempting to make Republicans look bad if they oppose measures they previously supported. If they don't support jobs bills, it's "going to highlight" that Republicans are blocking economic growth, Schumer said.
"We'd much rather the Republicans support us and get something done with the economy," Schumer said. "But it's a win-win for us. If they support us, we'll get something done with the economy."