Election Day is five weeks away, and it remains to be seen which party will be defending majorities in the House and Senate in 2012, but there is growing speculation about who will lead the Congressional campaign efforts next cycle.
For Republicans, there appears to be a strong possibility that the current chairmen of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee will stay in those roles for another two years.
But it is unclear whom Democrats will tap to lead the House and Senate political efforts next cycle which includes both a presidential race and Congressional redistricting.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a former state party chairman, is an appealing choice to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But the frontrunner is telling his colleagues to keep searching for another candidate.
Its not happening, Warner Chief of Staff Luke Albee said. Sen. Warner is a committed centrist who believes in working across party lines. He is not interested in the job.
Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the current DSCC chairman, is up for re-election in 2012 and has ruled out serving another term. Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who led the Democratic takeover of the Senate and then expanded the partys majority as DSCC chairman during the 2006 and 2008 cycles, does not want a third term. Several other appealing candidates, such as Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), have their own re-elections to worry about next cycle. That leaves just a handful of potential candidates to take on the job of defending the 22 Democratic-held seats that are up in 2012, and among those Warner is by far the top pick.
I think Warner would be very good if he wanted to do it, if it made sense for him to do it, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said. He really is an all-star, we have several really good Senators in those younger two classes.
The perfect candidate, one Democratic aide pointed out, would be a first-term Senator up for re-election this year, but there isnt anyone who falls into that category. President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar were the only two Democrats first elected to the Senate in 2004, so the next viable class to choose from is the one that arrived after 2008. Sens. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) have each been mentioned as potential DSCC chairmen. Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), a prolific fundraiser, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), who was national chairwoman of Sen. John Kerrys (D-Mass.) 2004 presidential campaign, are considered dark-horse options.
I have not thought one minute about such a job, Mark Udall said. Im really still a rookie here.
Shaheen similarly demurred at the mention of her DSCC prospects. But it took three attempts to get Menendez to take on the role in late 2008, and as he pointed out, any of the top candidates will have to be similarly wooed.
It has to be someone who is not in cycle and who has the time and wherewithal to be committed to it, he said. A very huge chunk of my time for the last two years has been committed to this. It takes that type of commitment.