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Chuck Schumer's Senate Future Will Be Decided by Voters Outside New York

By DNAinfo Staff on November 1, 2010 1:54pm  | Updated on November 2, 2010 7:06am

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. could be in the running to become the new Senate Majority Leader.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. could be in the running to become the new Senate Majority Leader.
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AP Photo/Evan Vucci

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — As the election results roll in Tuesday night, Chuck Schumer's future in the Senate will hinge on voters beyond New York.

Schumer's reelection is considered a lock, but the Democrats' grasp on the Senate is anything but. Out in Nevada, Majority Leader Harry Reid is hanging on by a thread, and many Democrats across the country find themselves in tight races.

Depending on how things go on Election Day, Schumer could find himself in a new battle, for either majority or minority leader of the Senate.

Any succession battle will likely pit Schumer, the third-ranked Democrat in the Senate, against Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who's in second. Both are highly respected and powerful fundraisers, and, coincidentally, they share a townhouse in D.C.

Which roommate has the edge? Some pundits think with his fundraising prowess and take-no-prisoners approach to campaigning, that Schumer has a better shot at the majority leader slot if Reid falters.

"Schumer’s fundraising prowess plus his inability get fatigued plus his ability to pull people together makes him a triple threat," said top Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

Schumer, who was widely credited for orchestrating the dramatic Democratic gains in the Senate in 2006 and 2008 as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has many loyal friends in the party, Sheinkopf said.

"Schumer is the architect and certainly the fundraising brains behind the Democratic takeover," he said.

And the fact that Schumer’s seat is safe has also been a benefit, allowing him to spend his time and the money he's raised helping fellow Democrats in races across the nation.

"What it’s allowing Schumer to do is to give out his campaign war chest," said New York Republican strategist Mike Edelman said. That builds loyalty among party members.

"[The choice will be] about how much support he has among the liberal base and whether they believe he’ll make the best leader, period," said Edelman.

So far, Schumer has donated millions to Democratic groups and candidates, Federal Election Commission filings show.

His IMPACT PAC has given more than $200,000 to fellow candidates' campaigns, including $10,000 each to a handful of New York Democrats and tens of thousands more to Senate candidates from 17 states, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Durbin is also donating and campaigning heavily, and has contributed nearly $257,000 to national candidates through his own PAC.

The latest Siena poll shows Schumer with a two-to-one lead over challenger Jay Townsend. Reid, on the other hand, is trailing challenger Sharon Angle by four points.

Reid's woes aside, most pundits believe the Senate will remain in Democratic hands. The latest Rothenberg Political Report predicts that Republicans will gain six to eight seats, fewer than the 10 they need to win the majority.

But Schumer’s chances could also depend on whether or not Democrats lose.

Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart argued that Durbin, who is known as a conciliator, would be a better choice for majority leader because it would signal that Democrats are interested in working with Republicans when Congress reconvenes.

Capehart wrote that Schumer would be better as minority leader because, "He'd make sure everyone knew who was at fault for any obstruction."

While Sheinkopf said Schumer would serve Democrats well in either case, he agreed that Schumer would make an especially strong minority leader because of his fundraising prowess, indefatigable drive and ability to deliver.

"Schumer’s the kind of person you want with you in war time," Sheinkopf said. "If I was in the minority and wanted to be back in the majority, I would pick Schumer."