Schumer Whistles Past the Graveyard, Carrying Tea Kettle

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 12 2011 3:59 PM

Schumer Whistles Past the Graveyard, Carrying Tea Kettle

Chuck Schumer is mostly getting the headlines he wanted out of his Third Way breakfast today. The Tea Party, he says, is going to bring down the GOP. Obstructionism cost the party a good poll number on "who do you trust to create jobs." The debt fight wrecked the GOP's image. And I suppose if Democrats can convince the country that Washington works the way it actually works, he'll be on to something.

But what was Schumer saying here?

"It's almost impossible to say we'll lose the Senate, unless the roof falls in..." By blaming the Tea Party, Schumer said Democrats may be able to pick up "a seat or two" in Indiana, Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts, where Democrat Elizabeth Warren is taking on Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
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This is tough stuff to predict a year out, but Schumer's starting assumption is that the Democrats won't lose any U.S. Senate seats. They managed that trick in 2006. They managed it in 2008. But at this moment, that doesn't look possible. Kent Conrad is retiring in North Dakota, and the most optimistic Democratic poll has their "generic" candidate down 4 to a first-term congressman. Herb Kohl, who used his money to sleepwalk through Senate races (and Senate terms!) is retiring in Wisconsin; even the Republicans' right-wing challenger in that race, Mark Neumann, is up 4 on the likely Democratic candidate, Tammy Baldwin. The best poll all year for Sen. Ben Nelson has him down -- hey, weird pattern -- by 4 points. There have not been any recent polls out of Indiana, Nevada or Arizona showing Democrats up.

Okay, fine: Schumer may be ahead of a trend. The news that Gov. Linda Lingle will run for Senate in Hawaii cheered up Republicans, but the last poll there has her down 22 points to the likely Democratic candidate. (Governors who endured 2009-2010 are not all that popular, generally.) Indiana is more gettable if Richard Lugar loses his primary next year. Republicans can't find good candidates in Pennsylvania or Minnesota. But are we forgetting 2010 so soon? It took until the summer for Republicans to find Ron Johnson, who ended up beating Russ Feingold.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.