BY Kenneth R. Bazinet
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - The head of the GOP's Senate election committee predicted Sunday that the fight over the planned mosque near Ground Zero will become a ballot-box issue Republicans will use against Democrats in November's midterm elections. [Check out 11 hot races to watch in November.]
Democratic political sources agreed, saying they are already telling their candidates across the country to be prepared to face questions about the mosque issue now that President Obama has weighed in with his opinion.
"The President has made this a national issue. Every candidate will be asked where they stand now on the mosque," said a senior Democratic political operative.
Fueled by Obama's comments over the weekend regarding the mosque, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) called on New York's Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to state whether they think the mosque should be built.
"This is going to be a local decision. I'd like to hear what other elected officials in New York - the two United States senators and other local officials - think about this. And the American people will render their verdict," Cornyn said on "Fox News Sunday."
"I think whether you're connected with people, whether you're listening or whether you're lecturing to them, I think this is sort of the dichotomy that people sense, that they're being lectured to, not listened to, and I think that's the reason why a lot of people are very upset with Washington," added Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Schumer and Gillibrand have already taken positions on the mosque, their spokesmen said. "He doesn't oppose it," said Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon. And Gillibrand "supports the local community board's decision" okaying the plan, said her spokesman, Matt Canter.
Cornyn also took aim at Obama, accusing him of being out of touch for taking the position that, in the end, freedom of religion trumps all other arguments.
"Well, I think it does speak to the lack of connection between the administration and Washington and folks inside the Beltway and mainstream America. And I think this is what aggravates people so much," he said.