Making sure the Democrats regain control of the Senate in 2016 is the number one goal of new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Tester.
In an interview with The Hill
, the Montana lawmaker said he feels his party's chances are "good," particularly given it is a presidential year and turnout will be higher than the midterms, but acknowledged that nothing can be taken for granted.
"I can tell you that I will not be successful in this job unless we take the majority back," Tester told The Hill. "I'm not in this to pick up a seat. I'm in this to win the majority."
In November, the Democrats lost nine seats and control of the Senate, but heading into 2016, they will be defending only 10 seats compared to 24 seats that the Republicans must defend.
Many of those Democratic seats are already in blue or swing states.
"Everybody says the maps are in your favor, and it is, there's more red than blue on that map," Tester said. "But none of those red seats are a gimme, not one of them are a gimme. They're all going to take a lot of work."
Tester has already been meeting with prospective candidates and looking to ensure that none of the 10 Democrats facing re-election next year will retire, other than California Sen. Barbara Boxer.
He also said he believes that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will stay on and prevail.
"I think he's in. He doesn't look particularly good right now. ... He looks like he's been through a war. But Harry's a fighter and Harry bounces back from this kind of stuff," Tester said, referring to Reid's recent injuries from a fall while exercising.
"I will tell you that we had a conversation on the phone and he said, 'What about the incumbents, who have you talked to?' And I said, 'I talked to them all. Barbara's not in, the rest of them are all in. There's only one I haven't talked to.'
"And he says, 'Who is it? Who haven't you talked to yet?' And I said, 'It's you, Harry. Are you in?' And he goes 'Absolutely,'" Tester said, the Hill reported.
"Harry would be the only one and he assures me he's going 110 percent."
Tester has also been working to recruit prospective candidates, such as a challenger for Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is considering a bid, he said.
"He's definitely interested, there's no doubt about that," Tester said of Strickland, according to The Hill. "He's certainly weighing his options right now ... he's 75 years old but he's got a good level of energy, and I think he's definitely a candidate who could be formidable."
Tester has also been in touch with former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold about potentially challenging GOP Sen. Ron Johnson.
"The conversation [with Feingold] was, 'It's a new day now.' In 2010, Citizens United started about two-thirds of the way through on that race, I believe it was in June on a November election.
"It's a different world now. And he knows that, he's smart. He's a Rhodes Scholar, for chrissakes. And he knows what he's getting into," Tester told The Hill.
"Russ is a good guy and if Russ chooses to [run] he'd be a formidable candidate. I think he learned from the last election. You learn a lot more from defeat than you learn from victory and he'll utilize that if he gets into this race."
He also said that he did not intend to try to encourage former Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina to run for election again.
"I think it's better for them mentally to just get back in the groove and I think right now they could make a bad decision, either getting in or not getting in, a bad decision for them.
"I think it's really much more important to just let them settle down, take it easy, get your mind back in the middle, and at some point in time I'll have a visit to see if they're interested. But I still think it's too early," he told The Hill.
Tester said that he is not seeking to be a partisan figure in his new role, but instead wants to focus on recruiting winning candidates.
"The country could use some different thinking than a lot of the folks I serve with are trying to promote," he said, according to The Hill. "And that's why I thought this job was important — so that we could recruit good candidates that have a certain level of commonsense.
"So we'll see how successful I am in that."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.