Drumbeat grows for Schumer at DSCC as colleagues shun job

Drumbeat grows for Schumer at DSCC as colleagues shun job

Senate Democrats facing tough reelections in 2012 want Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Finance: White House planning new tax cut proposal this summer | Schumer wants Congress to block reported ZTE deal | Tech scrambles to comply with new data rules OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote MORE (D-N.Y.) to return as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), according to current and former Senate aides.

Democratic aides and strategists clamoring for Schumer say the job is too critical to leave to an untested senator.

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“This is the biggest cycle ever — I don’t know why [Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] would put a mediocre person in the role,” said a Democratic strategist close to one of the incumbents facing a tough reelection.

“If there’s not somebody who’s powerful or can handle this thing, it’s not going to be helpful,” said the Democratic source. “If we have a terrible election, we’re at 44 or 43 seats. Beyond taking the Senate back, I can’t imagine a more important cycle.”

Colleagues talked to Schumer before the election about returning to the DSCC, and he rebuffed the idea.

On Thursday, his spokesman Brian Fallon declined to comment.

Democrats must defend 21 seats in 2012 in what they expect to be a hostile political environment until the economy shows stronger signs of improvement. (The number climbs to 23, counting Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump: ‘Clapper has now admitted there was spying on my campaign’ Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE, Vt., and Joe Lieberman, Conn., Independents who caucus with the Democrats.)

Republicans, by contrast, have to defend only 10 seats. Other than Sen. Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts, there are few promising pickup opportunities.

DSCC Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo Poll: Menendez has 17-point lead over GOP challenger MORE (N.J.) is stepping down from the post to run for his own reelection in two years, leaving it up to Reid to appoint a successor.

Senate Democratic aides say the Democratic senators have confidence that, if anyone can save their majority in 2012, Schumer can.

“That’s an excellent idea,” said a senior Democratic aide. “It’s great.”

Democrats who want Schumer back at the helm argue that the expectations for Democratic success in the coming cycle are low and his colleagues would be very grateful.

“No one can raise the type of money that Schumer has done,” said a consultant who worked for a Democratic senator facing a tough reelection campaign.

“If Schumer steps up and does it, he is virtually guaranteed that he will be the next leader of the Democratic Senate,” said the consultant. “Expectations are really low; if we get waxed it’s not his fault. He can raise $100 million and he’ll be a hero.”

Schumer also showed a knack for persuading Democratic lawmakers from conservative-leaning states to postpone their retirements. As soon as he took over the DSCC in 2004, he focused on keeping those on-the-fence incumbents in Congress.

Senate Democrats were hurt this year by the retirements of Byron Dorgan and Evan Bayh, who could have given Republicans a tough fight in North Dakota and Indiana, respectively. Democrats lost both seats.

Some Democrats also point out there’s not an obvious outlet for Schumer’s famous energy and ambition. Reid narrowly won reelection and is expected to continue serving as majority leader, while Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (Ill.) has the job of Democratic whip locked down.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” said the senior Democratic aide.

Schumer is known as a dealmaker on the Finance Committee, but Senate Republicans show few signs they are ready to compromise with Democrats anytime soon.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGiuliani: White House wants briefing on classified meeting over Russia probe GOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump now says Korea summit could still happen June 12 MORE (Ky.) said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday that voters had given the GOP “clear marching orders.” He said the Republicans’ “primary legislative goals” are “to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government.”

Democratic insiders saw Schumer as the favorite to become majority leader if Reid lost his race against Sharron Angle.

His popularity within the Senate Democratic Conference hit an all-time high after the 2008 election cycle, when he served his second stint as DSCC chairman. During Schumer’s two terms in that role, Senate Democrats picked up 14 Senate seats.

But the glow of that accomplishment fades a little more with each passing year in a town where the perennial question is “What have you done for me lately?”

The drumbeat for Schumer’s return to the DSCC has grown louder as other possible candidates have withdrawn their names from consideration.

Earlier this fall, Senate Democrats hoped that Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — The art of walking away from the deal Giuliani: Trump asked White House lawyer to go to Russia briefings Top Intel Dems denounce presence of Trump lawyer at classified briefings MORE (Va.), who has a national profile and fundraising base because of his 2008 presidential ambitions, would take the job.

But Warner has ruled out the possibility.

“It’s not happening,” said Luke Albee, Warner’s chief of staff.

Many rising stars, such as Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation EPA extends comment period on controversial science transparency rule House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump MORE (R.I.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation Senators offer tax bill aimed at helping first responders McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP MORE Jr. (Pa.), are not eligible because they face reelection in 2012.

Senior Democrats such as Sens. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law MORE (Iowa) and John KerryJohn Forbes KerryJohn Kerry to NYU Abu Dhabi: We can't address world problems by 'going it alone' Juan Williams: Trump's dangerous lies on Iran Pompeo: US tried, failed to achieve side deal with European allies MORE (Mass.) want to devote their time and attention to the committees they chair.

Other Democratic senators whose names have been floated as candidates for the job have also said no.

“Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDem senator presses EPA over reporter 'intimidation' Dems expand 2018 message to ‘draining the swamp’ Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus MORE [N.M.] is not interested in the position,” said his spokeswoman, Marissa Padilla.

Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Democratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (Colo.) is also passing.

“I’m focused right now on Colorado and getting back to work on Coloradans’ priorities, especially creating jobs and getting our national debt under control,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyThe federal judiciary needs more Latino judges Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE (Ore.) is not interested in the job either, according to his spokesman.

Other possibilities are Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska), who is respected for his political acumen and fundraising ability, and Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina MORE (N.C.).

Begich, however, has a young son, and the time he would need to spend recruiting candidates and raising tens of millions of dollars for the DSCC would take away from time with family.

“Family is very important to him,” said spokeswoman Julie Hasquet.

A spokeswoman for Hagan said late Thursday that her boss "is not interested in being DSCC chairman."

Jennifer Duffy, a senior analyst at The Cook Political Report, said there is “a pretty short list” of possible candidates to head the DSCC.

“When you go through the entire caucus, there just aren’t that many people available to serve as chairman,” she said.

Duffy said Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump to sign 'right to try' drug bill next week Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump official won't OK lifetime limits on Medicaid Dems warn against changes to federal family planning program MORE (Wash.), who chaired the committee from 2001 to 2003, might be a good fit for the job again, as long as she eventually wins her Senate reelection race. The race has yet to be called.

But Murray’s record isn’t Schumer’s.

With Murray at the helm, Senate Democrats lost a net of two seats in 2002, President George W. Bush’s first midterm election.


J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this report.