Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How the Democrats took back the Senate...

Senator Chuck Schumer has revealed that picking a favorite in a primary was key to winning in 2006.
Schumer contends, instead, that a bigger factor was his sometimes controversial decision to have the DSCC play favorites and “mix” in the primary elections that chose Democratic nominees for some of the year’s key races.

Schumer said that this was one of the conditions he laid out when he was negotiating with Senate Democratic leaders about whether he would accept the DSCC chairmanship after the 2004 election. He referred in the book to a meeting he had with Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who was stepping up to the position of minority leader vacated when Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle lost his 2004 re-election bid in South Dakota.

“Of all the things Harry Reid and I discussed the day I took the DSCC job, I believe that aggressive candidate selection — through both recruitment and intervention in primaries — contributed to winning the Senate majority more than any other (even more than our fundraising advantage, which was significant, to be sure.),” Schumer wrote.

Immediately after taking the job, Schumer started seeking out Republican seats for Democrats to target in 2006. It hardly took much time for the Schumer team to set their sights on Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state where Republican incumbent Rick Santorum’s strongly conservative views rendered him highly vulnerable, even before the anti-Republican tide of 2006 had set in. Schumer worked with Edward G. Rendell, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, to recruit a proven prodigious vote-getter, Bob Casey, the incumbent state treasurer, a former state auditor and namesake son of a late, popular former governor.[...]

In Virginia, where Republican Sen. George Allen entered his re-election bid as a solid favorite, Schumer preferred Jim Webb — a former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan and, until not that long ago, a Republican — over technology industry lobbyist Harris Miller, a longtime Democratic Party activist.

Webb’s military background, which includes combat service during the Vietnam War, gave credibility to his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war and his characterization of Allen as a knee-jerk supporter of President Bush’s Iraq policy. Schumer wrote that Webb “fit like a glove” in Virginia, a state with many residents who are active or retired military or who have ties to defense-related industry.[...]

Schumer’s candidate recruitment efforts even included moments of serendipity. Schumer was vacationing in London with his family and learned that state Auditor Claire McCaskill of Missouri — whom Schumer was coaxing to challenge Republican Sen. Jim Talent — happened to be vacationing with family in London at the same time.

“I found out where her family was staying and invited them to dinner,” Schumer wrote, adding that the trip enabled him to convey to McCaskill that “being in the Senate wouldn’t foreclose a family life.”

McCaskill agreed to run, and she defeated Talent.
Kentucky has a big race in 2008 to unseat Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell. It will be interesting to see who the DSCC will go after.

No comments: