Durbin and Schumer prepare for fight with donations to Senate colleagues (IF Reid loses.. Oh Boy)
The second- and third-ranking Senate Democratic leaders are doling out huge sums of cash, laying the groundwork for a leadership race should Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lose reelection.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, has been the biggest giver to Democratic Senate candidates, contributing $210,000 to colleagues and candidates.During the same span, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has given $110,000 to Senate candidates.
The leaders gave money to newcomers and candidates facing tough races. But they also contributed to those whose reelection prospects seem solid, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who last won in liberal Vermont with 71 percent of the vote. While Leahy probably does not need the money for reelection, Durbin and Schumer may feel they need to contribute to his campaign to cement his loyalty.
Both lawmakers gave the money through their leadership political action committees (PACs), which allies say is a sign that they are preparing for a possible leadership battle if Reid (D-Nev.) loses reelection, a prospect that is looking more likely.
Spokesmen for Durbin and Schumer declined requests for comment.
“You have a leadership PAC for a reason: You give to people that you want to support you at some point in the future,” said a former aide to one of the Democratic leaders. “Is a future leadership race part of the calculation when you give? Yes, it is.”Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), on the other hand, seems to be strengthening his grip on the top job, giving away $330,000 through his leadership PAC in 2009. That exceeds the $310,000 he doled out in 2008 and the $275,000 in 2007.
But McConnell is facing pressure from conservatives to move the party rightward. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who has emerged as the strongest voice in the chamber for that movement, gave away $148,000 to candidates.The situation with Schumer and Durbin is a delicate one. Both support Reid and do not want to do anything to undermine his reelection effort. But at the same time, they realize — as do many political analysts *— that Reid faces a serious threat.
Reid’s job approval rating has hovered around 40 percent in recent polls, and the national political environment is shaping up as a challenging one for Democrats.The Nevada lawmaker gave far less to Democratic candidates in 2009 than he did in 2007, the last off-year before an election year. In 2007, Reid contributed $197,500 to federal candidates and other political committees. Last year, he gave away $126,000.
Reid has given $95,000 to Senate Democratic candidates but targeted his gifts to challengers such as Rep. Paul Hodes, who is running in New Hampshire, and Rep. Charlie Melancon in Louisiana.Reid did not give money to incumbents in cushy seats, focusing instead on his own reelection. He showered dozen of local candidates and political organizations in Nevada with money, including $5,000 to the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus and $2,500 to the Clark County Democratic Hispanic Caucus.
“While the size and number of contributions to candidates may vary, the goal of the fund has always remained the same: electing individuals who share Sen. Reid’s commitment to creating jobs and turning the economy around,” said Zac Petkanas, Reid’s campaign spokesman.A Durbin ally said the possibility of replacing Reid is “far more in the mind of Chuck Schumer than anyone else” but acknowledged that Durbin has by no means ignored the possibility..