By Alexander Bolton - 10/23/14 12:39 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidShutdown risk grows over Flint Overnight Finance: Four days left to avert shutdown | Conservative group bucks spending bill | Lawmakers play catch-up on smartphone banking Reid blasts GOP senator over Flint 'hostage' comments MORE’s office says the longtime Democratic leader isn’t going anywhere — no matter which party controls the Senate after the midterm elections.
Citing Reid’s success in leading his party to victory over the last four cycles, a spokesman for the Nevada Democrat says he’ll return to lead his party in 2015 — whether it’s in the majority or minority.
“The only reason Democrats are in a strong position to hold onto the majority this cycle is because of Democratic over-performance in 2012, when we gained two seats, despite predictions that we would lose the majority — not to mention Democratic over-performance relative to expectations in 2010, 2008 and 2006,” Jentleson continued.
“So yes, Sen. Reid will be leader regardless of the outcome of the election.”
The confident tone comes amid some grumbling from Democrats about their longtime leader during a nerve-wracking election season.
Republicans need to pick up six seats to win the majority and are in position to win in Montana and West Virginia. Polls show Republican candidates leading or faring well against Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and North Carolina, and the GOP is also hoping to win back Democratic seats in South Dakota and Iowa.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDems call for better birth control access for female troops GOP puts shutdown squeeze play on Dems Senators seek to boost women in international forces MORE of New Hampshire, who is in a competitive race with former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), became the latest Democrat to call for a shake-up in leadership during a Tuesday debate.
She declined to say whether she would support Reid serving another term and called for a leadership race.
“I think it’s important for us to have a contest in these positions,” she said.
Reid’s allies dismiss these calls as campaign rhetoric. They argue that lawmakers in tough races are merely trying to distance themselves from Washington, when Congress has a dismal approval rating.
“I think that Sen. Reid has been a very good leader in an extremely difficult time,” Sen. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowGOP puts shutdown squeeze play on Dems Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Week ahead: Flint aid fight shifts to House MORE (D-Mich.) said in an interview Wednesday. She argued the caucus is solidly behind Reid, who has raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.
“He was dealt an extremely difficult hand with Republicans whose only agenda was to make sure the president and Democrats fail,” she added. “I’m a strong supporter of Sen. Reid.”
If Democrats lose seven or eight seats, some believe the 74-year-old Reid could feel pressure to step aside for a younger leader, such as Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerOvernight Tech: Tech pushes for debate spotlight | Disney may bid for Twitter | Dem seeks Yahoo probe Saudis hire lobbyists amid 9/11 fight Consumer bureau remains partisan target after Wells Fargo settlement MORE (D-N.Y.) or Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
“Then, certainly, people are going to have to do a lot of soul searching,” said one senior Democratic source.
A former Senate Democratic leadership aide said Democratic senators will feel they have targets on their backs in the next election cycle if Election Day is a bloodbath.
“If there’s a real groundswell, everyone is going to see a target on their backs and say, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ ” said the source, who added it might lead Reid to think it’s time to step aside for a new leader.
“It’s more of a reason for someone to say to themselves, I’m going to go with a bow,” the source added.
Reid has said he will run for reelection in 2016 but declined to say at a press conference before Congress recessed for the election whether he would keep his leadership post if his party lost the majority.
“I'm not doing any hypotheticals if we lose, because I don't think we are,” he said.
Shaheen is the fourth sitting Democratic senator in recent weeks to call for a leadership race or criticized Reid’s record as leader.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said at a fundraiser in the past month that Reid should be replaced as majority leader and suggested Schumer as a replacement.
Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerOvernight Cybersecurity: Cyber questions for the debate | Dem wants Yahoo hack probe Dem senator urges SEC to investigate Yahoo Lawmakers play catch-up as smartphone banking surges MORE (D-Va.), who clashed with Reid over his attempts to pursue a grand-bargain deficit deal outside the regular committee structure, said at a recent debate that both parties would be better served with different Senate leaders.
“We could perhaps do better in both parties,” he said.
Reid’s heir apparent is Schumer, the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, who brought his colleagues to the majority in 2006 as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
He’s made it absolutely clear that he is loyal to Reid and will not challenge him.
“Schumer is extremely loyal to Reid and fully expects he will remain leader,” said a source close to Schumer.
Some Democratic sources say there is a high level of frustration within the Senate Democratic caucus over the lack of legislative progress under Reid’s leadership.
They say Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is primarily to blame but wonder whether a new Democratic leader would change the chamber’s dysfunctional dynamic.
“I think Harry Reid will be the leader come January, but there is a dissatisfaction among a lot of Democrats that we’re not doing anything, and they spend a lot of money to get elected. They spend months and months on the phone raising money to get elected, and the job is not satisfying. Nearly all these people came here to get something done, and that’s what they want to do,” said a former aide to Schumer.
The source said Reid “raises a ton or money and supports a lot of members,” adding there's “frustration but still loyalty to him.”
Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDemocrat vows to go after opioid makers – including daughter's company Overnight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis Democrat defends daughter after tough EpiPen grilling MORE (D-W.Va.) recently praised Reid as a person but said his leadership style, which strictly limits votes on amendments, is too stifling.
Manchin called Reid a “good man” but criticized his leadership style as “overprotective,” in reference to how he manages the floor.
A former Senate aide said outsiders underestimate how much loyalty Reid has within the caucus because of his diligent tending of his colleagues' needs and concerns.
“The loyalty to Reid runs pretty deep. To the extent the caucus feels like they’re in a difficult political environment, they attribute to other factors, including to the administration and less so the leadership in the Senate,” said the former aide.
“Leader Reid has a lot of values that might be underappreciated in some corners,” the aide added. “I don’t necessarily think an adverse election cycle here is going to cause his situation to change and I’d be surprised if he has any inclination to want to step down on his own part.”