By Alexandra Jaffe - 11/28/12 10:00 AM EST
Senate Democrats are struggling to find a leader for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) even as Republicans lay the groundwork to win back the upper chamber in 2014.
Party leaders say they are unconcerned that Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who was offered the position by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier this month, has not yet made his decision, insisting that it was too early to think about 2014.
“We haven’t even finished this year,” she said.
And Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democrat and a former DSCC chairman, insisted, “We have a chairman!” — Murray.
Bennet’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Democrats were in a similar position two years ago, when several senators — including Bennet — passed on the job out of concern it would be too difficult of a challenge. The party was expected to lose seats to the Republicans in the 2012 cycle.
But Murray took the position and picked up two seats for the party, in addition to increasing her stature among her colleagues.
Much like last cycle, the new committee chairman will play a significant role in fundraising and recruiting candidates to run in 2014. And whoever it is faces a difficult battle in protecting the Senate Democratic majority.
Republicans, meanwhile, elected Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to head the National Republican Senatorial Committee and already have a strong recruit for one possible pickup: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito announced a bid for West Virginia’s Senate seat.
Out of the four congressional campaign committees, the DSCC remains the only one without a leader.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) have also been floated as options for the position, but a spokeswoman for Gillibrand said the senator isn’t interested. Klobuchar’s and Whitehouse’s offices did not respond to a request for comment.
Murray has been widely praised for her role in raising millions to help the DSCC defend vulnerable incumbents, and for successfully recruiting strong candidates to run in difficult races in red-leaning states like Wisconsin and Indiana — two seats that the Democrats won.
The new chairman’s task looks similarly daunting, with 20 Democratic incumbents up for reelection and at least four — Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) — looking ripe for retirement.
Another 13 Republicans are up for reelection in 2014, and Democrats are sure to play offense in those races, but doing so will require strong recruits.
But a former Senate Democratic aide familiar with Reid’s thinking dismissed questions surrounding Bennet’s timeline, noting that Murray took her time in deciding to head the committee in November 2010.
“It’s far too early to start worrying about that,” the aide said.
The aide said that a decision needs to be made by the end of the year, but in the meantime, Reid can handle many of the traditional responsibilities of a DSCC chairman, including convincing vulnerable Senate incumbents to run again in 2014.
“The [DSCC] can run largely on autopilot while the senator decides what to do,” the aide said.