Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 | 4:38 p.m.
To win the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are going to need successful fundraising, great messaging and a strong get-out-the-vote effort.
But Senate Democrats say they’ve got something else giving them an advantage: girl power.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee featured Rep. Shelley Berkley in a press event at the Sewall-Belmont House in D.C. — an important house in the history of the suffragette movement — to highlight the role of female candidates in the effort to keep the Senate under Democratic control.
DSCC Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, who came into her political oeuvre campaigning for funding for her kids’ preschool and ran for the Senate in 1992 as the “mom in tennis shoes,” drew parallels between her election — called the “Year of the Woman” for all the female lawmakers that made it to Washington — and 2012.
“When I ran for the Senate in 1992 ... there were 10 Democratic nominees that year. This year, we’re going to beat that with 11,” Murray said. “I came (to the Senate) passionately because of what happened to me in my life ... Every woman who is here has had something happen in their lives where they realized that they can make their country better.”
For Berkley, it was a chance to lay out her personal motivation for wanting to be in politics for the national press by telling a part of her life story most in Nevada know but isn’t usually her main focus on the stump.
“I am the granddaughter of immigrants to this country that couldn’t speak English. They came to this country in order to escape the Holocaust,” Berkley said. “When they came to this country...they had very limited skills; they had no money. The only thing they had was a dream.
“I often think of myself as my grandparents’ American dream — though I’m quite certain that in their wildest dream they never would have imagined they’d have a granddaughter who was a member of the United States House and running for the United States Senate,” she said. “Public service is a way for me to give something back to this country for not only taking my family in to survive, which we have, but to thrive, which we have as well.”
The personal stories Berkley and her fellow female congressional colleagues making Senate bids told Tuesday gave listeners a not-too-subtle sense that there was a connection being made to the Democratic constituencies and campaign platforms in each.
Berkley’s tale of her father, a waiter by trade, packing up the family and driving from New York for California — but falling in love with Las Vegas along the way and staying — was a story of the middle-class family experience.
Hawaii Senate hopeful Mazie Hirono’s story of coming over on a boat with her single mother from Japan and working her way through law school was the story of the immigrant experience.
And Wisconsin Senate hopeful Tammy Baldwin’s story of a severe childhood illness doubled as a pitch on health care.
The setting, the stories and Murray’s nod to legacy were crafted to emphasize the potential historic moment 2012 could be for women — Democratic women — in Washington.
Republicans say, though, there’s a different kind of history that should be the focus of Democrats’ attention.
“Democrats lost seven Senate seats last cycle, and independent voters by wide margins, because their message and their candidates were to the far left of most voters in their states,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said in a statement emailed to reporters. “So whether it’s in Wisconsin, Nevada, North Dakota or elsewhere, it’s remarkable to watch history already begin to repeat itself.”
The three states Walsh lists have emerged as some of the closest toss-up races in the country in the last several weeks — something that’s actually a bit of a coup for Democrats, who weren’t expected to be competitive in North Dakota at all.
In all three states, Democrats are backing a woman.
The 11 states where Democrats are backing female Senate challengers are Nevada, Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
They’re also defending six incumbent women: Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Maria Cantwell of Washington.