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Schumer and Reid Like the Lay of the Land in Senate Races

Schumer highlighted recruiting successes for Democrats in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Schumer highlighted recruiting successes for Democrats in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democratic leaders are not being shy about their chances to move a handful of desks across the aisle and take back the chamber’s majority.

“The map looks very good,” New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer told CQ Roll Call last week. “First, the map itself is good. We have two Democratic, you know, seats that are in some degree of jeopardy. They have a much larger number.”

Democrats are playing on favorable terrain this cycle, with a map that’s a mirror image of 2014. This time, Republican incumbents are seeking re-election in states more likely to go blue in a presidential campaign year. And this class of first-term Republicans up next year were elected in 2010 without a White House race on the ballot.

Currently the No. 3 man in leadership, Schumer’s poised to become Democratic leader — minority or majority — when Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., steps aside at the end of the current Congress.  

“I’m devoting a huge amount of my time to making sure — I’ve explained this to Sen. Schumer — it’s so much better to be majority leader than minority leader, you know. And he understands that and he and I are doing everything we can,” Reid said at an event Monday in Las Vegas.  

Speaking at a forum organized by The Washington Post , Reid was upbeat to the point of being brash about the chances for Democrats to reclaim the majority, which they lost in a difficult 2014 mid-term campaign. For one, Reid thinks Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is a goner.  

“Wisconsin, I think we have that in the bag. I say that seriously,” Reid said. Democrats are running former Sen. Russ Feingold in that race, in a rematch of six years ago.  

The Badger State contest is one of three Senate races rated Tossup  by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call.  

Reid was also upbeat about prospects for Democratic victories in races against GOP incumbents from a variety of states, from Illinois to New Hampshire, and Missouri to Ohio.  

“No matter all the money they’re spending against Gov. [Ted] Strickland in Ohio, he’s still ahead in all the polls, so I feel good about Strickland. He is a revered figured in that state,” Reid said.  

The Washington Post event was being held in connection with Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, and while Reid has not endorsed anyone in the contest, he did hint at how he thought former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy could help in Senate contests.  

“We have a primary in Pennsylvania, which I wish we didn’t but we do. But we have the governor supporting Katie McGinty, we have former Gov. [Ed] Rendell, so she’s going to win that primary,” Reid said. “I think that’s going to be a heavily Democratic state come Hillary time — or whoever wins the primary”  

While Schumer did not go through individual races in the interview last week, he was particularly upbeat about recruiting successes by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The Democratic campaign arm, led by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, came close to running the table in getting preferred candidates to throw their hats into the ring.  

Schumer was particularly excited that New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, long the top target for Democrats in the race against Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, had announced she was running shortly before the interview.  

“Our recruiting across the board has been very good. Their recruiting is not very good. They don’t have a strong candidate in Colorado, and they didn’t get their first choice in Nevada, the two states that are up,” Schumer said. “Their position — the presidential campaign and … the Republican position overall on immigration is hurting them very, very severely with the Hispanic vote, and in the two states they would hope to pick up that’s a large vote.”  

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., is expected to be the nominee to take on former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is Reid’s preferred successor.  

“The race here is looking really good. My friend who is running for the Senate [was a] two-time attorney general. She was a governor’s chief of staff, and she was out front on all the mortgage fraud stuff, sexual trafficking. She has a terrific record. She would be the first Latina in the history of the country to come to the Senate,” Reid said back home. “It’s about time we had that. She would be the first woman from Nevada.”  

Schumer also predicted last week that in the 2016 cycle, a presidential year, the Democratic message would carry the day, sounding a bit like Reid in the process with a reference to the billionaire conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch.  

“The Republican nostrum, ‘the way to make America better is cut taxes on big corporations and let them do whatever they want,’ doesn’t work,” Schumer said. “The Koch brothers may think it works, and maybe 50 Republicans in the House and 10 Republicans in the Senate think it works, but it doesn’t.”  

Senate Democrats Nearly Run Table in Recruitment

Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016

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