When I made my way over to the Democratic National Committee headquarters -- just a few blocks from the Capitol -- to interview DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, I walked into a building that seemed to be buzzing... people walking briskly by... glass enclosed meeting rooms filled with staffers busy typing away on laptops... and a Democratic leader who was, quite frankly, chipper, before what could be big losses in just a few days.
The day I interviewed Kaine was one day after Politico ran a piece quoting various Democratic leaders calling the DNC Chair "too nice." Asked about it, Kaine said, "I'm an optimist. But, you know, I know how to get out there and battle... and if you're on the field battling all the time, not everyone is going to go your way, but you have to stick with it." At which point I followed with, "Because in this environment -for Democrats - it's a battle." Kaine - "It IS. It's a very tough one."
All that said, Kaine DID appear to be in a good mood - Politico story and all. He said his mood was based, in part, on poll numbers in a number of races -- he cited the Ohio and Florida gubernatorial races, and the Pennsylvania Senate race - as examples of Democratic movement. "What will you consider victory on election night," I asked. His answer, "You know, over the summer, I think the other guys (the Republicans) felt pretty cocky they could win both. I think they're backing off the Senate now. And we're not taking anything for granted, but we feel we've got a great shot on the Senate... On the House side, we still have more work to do. But, I think we could do it. One of the reasons I think we can do it, is people focus on Democrats who may lose. They don't tend to focus on -there are Republican seats that we're going to pick up in the House."
In other words, by picking off a few Republican seats, it raises the bar from 39 to take control to 43 or 44. Or higher. But, in the wake of independent analysts - like Larry Sabato and Charlie Cook - now predicting anywhere from a 48 to 60 seat pickup for Republicans - Kaine knows the "work to do" is an uphill climb.
He adds, "It's a lot of hand-to-hand combat in individual races between now and Tuesday, but we've got a good ground game, and I think we're going to surprise some people."
Kaine jumped on Senator Mitch McConnell's recent quote in National Journal saying that the number one priority for Republicans is to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president. Kaine said about the Senate Minority Leader, "He didn't talk about jobs. He didn't talk about the economy, American defense, education. He said we want President Obama to be a one-term president. We have got to have substance in these offices and not just partisanship."
On Speaker Pelosi's future: "I do (think she will remain as Speaker if Democrats retain control)... There will be ‘let's rest for a week, let's figure it out, let's do some soul-searching.' But, I think Democrats will look around and conclude you ought to reward somebody who is a heavy lifter rather than say ‘well, gosh, you know, we need to find someone else.'"
With that, it was a walk through the buzzing building and the meetings and the fast walking staffers to the front door. No matter what happens for Democrats on Tuesday, the DNC and its chairman are trying to make the most of the last few days - that is clear.