(Allysia Finley/Political Diary) – Senate Majority Harry Reid is most likely a dead duck in November, but stunning nonetheless is how colleagues already are maneuvering for his job. Chuck Schumer, vice chairman of the Democratic Senate caucus, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin are said to have launched a spending contest to secure the loyalty of fellow Democratic Senators in rival bids for Mr. Reid’s leadership post.
Mr. Schumer has distributed $210,000 to help colleagues with their 2010 campaigns. Mr. Durbin has contributed $110,000. While some of the money has gone to vulnerable senators who need help, much of the largesse has gone to members whose seats are safe. Mr. Schumer especially has concentrated his support on powerful shoo-ins like Patrick Leahy, Patty Murray, Barbara Mikulski and Daniel Inouye.
Mr. Durbin, in contrast, has at least spared some cash for those actually in need of campaign help — so much in need of help that they subsequently decided to retire, including Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd.
Neither man is willing to discuss why they’ve been doling out large sums to colleagues. A source close to Mr. Durbin did tell The Hill newspaper that replacing Mr. Reid was “far more in the mind of Chuck Schumer than anyone else.”
But Mr. Schumer’s allies responded that he’s just a team player, doggone it. “Essentially, 14 Senate Democrats owe their seats to him and he wants to continue to protect that majority that he helped to build,” said one.
That a new majority leader will be needed come next January seems pretty certain. In match-ups against various potential GOP candidates, Mr. Reid trails former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden by 10 points, former UNLV basketball star Danny Tarkanian by eight points and former Reno Assemblywoman Sharron Angle by five points. And 42% of Nevadans haven’t even heard of Ms. Angle.
Mr. Schumer, however, perhaps shouldn’t take his own reelection entirely for granted. A Marist poll out Tuesday showed his approval rating dipping to a new low of 47%. Though it’s hard to imagine a Democrat taking him on, a wildcard Republican with deep pockets and a high public profile isn’t out of the question. CNBC host Larry Kudlow, whose potential candidacy is just a rumor at this point, trails 42 points in the Marist poll. But after Massachusetts, anything is possible.