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 SchumerDems press Trump to support ‘Buy America’ provision in water bill Overnight Finance: Trump takes victory lap at Carrier plant | House passes 'too big to fail' revamp | Trump econ team takes shape Anti-Defamation League: Ellison's past remarks about Israel 'disqualifying' 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 SandersBernie SandersBiden raises possibility of 2020 presidential bid Cures bill clears first Senate hurdle A record number of Indian Americans have been elected to Congress 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 MenendezThe right person for State Department is Rudy Giuliani Warren, Menendez question shakeup at Wells Fargo Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal 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 DurbinDick DurbinThis week: Government funding deadline looms Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington Senators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump 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 McConnellMitch McConnellCould bipartisanship rise with Trump government? Senate names part of Cures bill after Beau Biden Biden raises possibility of 2020 presidential bid 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 WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: Watchdog seeks release of Clinton aide's deposition Overnight Tech: FCC eyes cybersecurity role | More trouble for spectrum auction | Google seeks 'conservative outreach' director Overnight Finance: Trump adviser softens tone on NAFTA | Funding bill to be released Tuesday | GOP leader won't back Trump tariff plan 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 WhitehouseGOP wants to move fast on Sessions Dem senator backing Sessions for attorney general Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination MORE (R.I.) and Bob CaseyBob CaseyOvernight Finance: Trump adviser softens tone on NAFTA | Funding bill to be released Tuesday | GOP leader won't back Trump tariff plan Senate reverses passage of anti-terrorism bill Senate Dems draw hard line over miners' pension bill MORE Jr. (Pa.), are not eligible because they face reelection in 2012.

Senior Democrats such as Sens. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (Iowa) and John KerryJohn KerryWords are not enough — US must support Christians who survived genocide in Iraq What’s Russia’s real power? The power of the purse Can Ivanka Trump and Al Gore unite against climate change? 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 UdallTom UdallTom Udall eyes NM governor bid Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Tensions rise over judicial nominees MORE [N.M.] is not interested in the position,” said his spokeswoman, Marissa Padilla.

Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallGardner's chief of staff tapped for Senate GOP campaign director The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate Colorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open 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 MerkleyJeff MerkleyDem senator to Trump: 'You have no mandate' GOP senators wary of nuking filibuster Dem senators charge: Trump not draining the swamp MORE (Ore.) is not interested in the job either, according to his spokesman.

Other possibilities are Sens. Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (Alaska), who is respected for his political acumen and fundraising ability, and Kay HaganKay HaganGOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate 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 MurrayPatty MurrayTop Dem signals likely opposition to Sessions nomination Overnight Finance: Trump takes victory lap at Carrier plant | House passes 'too big to fail' revamp | Trump econ team takes shape Senate Dems: Force Cabinet nominees to release tax returns 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.