ABC News' Amy Bingham and Rick Klein report:
The Democrats’ top Senate strategist predicted today that victories over Republican incumbents in Massachusetts, Nevada, and Indiana would keep the Senate in Democratic control this year, despite an unfavorable campaign terrain.
“A lot of the focus is on our seats. The reality is we are changing the map. If we win just two of those three seats it's not four seats the Republicans need to take back the majority, it's six and so we are going to play offense," the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Guy Cecil said today on ABC’s “Top Line.”
But Cecil’s Republican counterpart, Rob Jesmer, said that with Republicans needing to pick up only four of the 23 Democratic seats on the line in 2012, he’s confident that the Senate will swing to the GOP for the first time in six years.
“I think we're in great shape right now,” Jesmer said. “The reality is everyone running will be running in worse economic conditions than when they got to office. They promised they were going to fix them. They didn't. And I think that's why we're on offense all throughout the country.”
In Missouri, for example, Jesmer said Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill is “in a lot of trouble.” McCaskill, a former tax auditor, was accused of failing to pay $300,000 in property taxes on her private airplane, a scandal that could haunt her re-election bid.
While both Jesmer and Cecil agreed that Nevada and Massachusetts will be very competitive races, Jesmer said he expects the GOP to win “handily” in Indiana.
“The idea I guess that they are expanding the map I just find to be laughable,” Jesmer said. “The president is going to get his doors blown off in Indiana and we are going to win there handily.”
In Massachusetts, a traditionally blue state, Republican Sen. Scott Brown is defending the seat Ted Kennedy, a Democrat, held for 47 years. Brown came up from behind in the polls to win the seat in a January 2010 special election.
"For many years now politicians of both parties have been able to transcend the partisan make-up of their state and I think Scott Brown is one of these people,” Jesmer said. “He is more popular today than he was when he was elected. That is incredible.”
Three Democratic challengers have announced their bid to unseat Brown. Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, a liberal favorite because she set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has formed an exploratory committee, taking the first step to announcing her candidacy as well.
Massachusetts has gone blue in the past six presidential elections and President Obama is expected to have an easy victory there in 2012.
But Jesmer said he is confident the GOP will not lose any incumbents.
“We're going to win to take back the majority,” he said.
With the Democrats’ ability to maintain power in the Senate hanging in the mix, Cecil said the party will be focusing on “each individual race,” to draw contrasts not “between national Democrats and national Republicans, not between the Tea Party and between liberals,” But “between two men and I think if we take that strategy to races, that's how we hold the Senate.”
“We're going to keep the majority and we're going to do it by winning Massachusetts, Nevada and Indiana,” he said.