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House, Senate Leaders Hit Trail

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Congressional leaders such as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin have busy campaign schedules ahead and will end up logging thousands of miles to stump for their fellow lawmakers before Election Day.

Pelosi was in Denver on Wednesday night for the presidential debate, and today she will  headline a fundraiser for House Democrats in New York City with former Vice President Al Gore. Today's event is expected to showcase a number of New York races where Democrats hope to pick up seats.

A Pelosi aide said her priorities have been competitive Democratic challengers who are part of the DCCC's Red to Blue program.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has hosted or been the featured speaker at 82 breakfasts, lunches, receptions and dinners this year, "raising millions of dollars in the process," according to the Kentucky Republican's office. Though McConnell's office did not offer specific states where the leader will travel, an aide characterized his schedule as "hectic" and noted that McConnell will be traveling across the country. He's raised $3 million so far for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Another of Congress' top fundraisers, Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer, plans to travel to California and Massachusetts for DSCC events as well as to New York City and Washington to raise cash for individual challengers and incumbents. An aide to the New York Democrat said the Obama campaign has asked Schumer to do surrogate events later this month in Florida, a natural move for the Senate Democrats' messaging lieutenant. Schumer spent much of last Congress championing middle-class issues and preserving Medicare while attacking Rep. Paul Ryan's budget.

Schumer will also be in the spin room for the Oct. 16 presidential debate at Hofstra University. Durbin will be playing a similar role during the Oct. 11 vice presidential debate in Kentucky.

In the era of the super PAC, leaders' campaign responsibilities have only grown. In addition to press calls, joint events with the presidential campaigns and fundraisers for the campaign committees, leaders have had to take a more active role in bringing money into friendly super PAC coffers, largely because many top donors have already maxed out to the official campaign organizations.

Those fundraising efforts, according to one Democratic operative, largely manifest themselves in private meetings or phone calls with donors, with Pelosi, Reid and Schumer being three of the most effective and active fundraisers for the House Majority PAC and the Majority PAC, the House and Senate super PACs.

While the top four Congressional leaders are in high demand, Members of the leadership team looking to move up the party rungs also have booked their schedules solid. Some of these Members are tried-and-true campaigners, and others  are using 2012 to raise their profiles.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) was in Denver Wednesday night as a Romney surrogate. He traveled last week to Nebraska to campaign for Senate candidate Deb Fischer, who is facing former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey. And Thune will travel to campaign or fundraise for Senate candidates Rep. Denny Rehberg in Montana, Josh Mandel in Ohio, Ted Cruz in Texas, Rep. Rick Berg in North Dakota and George Allen in Virginia, according to his office. Other stops may be added.

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