Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Leader?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is up for reelection in Nevada next year.

A few days ago, Rasmussen reported polls showing Reid trailing the following two potential Republican challengers:

  1. Sue Lowden, a former state senator, who chairs her party in Nevada.
  2. Danny Tarkanian, a real estate businessman. Tarkanian's surname is well known in the state. His father, basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, was the successful, if controversial, head coach at University of Nevada -- Las Vegas for 18 years.

In Politico, Glenn Thrush analyzes the implications of what would be the second defeat of a Senate Democratic floor leader in a six-year period.

The Republican Party found itself in an interesting situation in South Dakota, in 2004. With a strong candidate, John Thune, running against Tom Daschle, who was then the Senate Democratic leader, the Republicans were like sharks smelling blood in the water.

In politics, as in baseball, the side spending the most money doesn't necessarily win. But, when what was arguably the highest national office held by any Democrat at that time at stake, in an election in which fewer than 400,000 people voted, the Republicans poured relatively massive amounts of money into South Dakota. The Democrats were forced to respond in kind, but their expensive defense of the Senate seat was unsuccessful. That was when Reid took over his party's leadership in the upper house.

Nevada is quite a bit more populous than South Dakota, which isn't saying much. But Nevada is still only the 35th most populous state, based on 2008 estimates.

The two Democratic senators named in the Politico article as potential successors to Reid, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York, come from what are, of course, two of the most populous states.

I wonder whether, in the wake of the Daschle defeat, and the Reid defeat, if it comes to that, the parties in the Senate will turn to the larger states in choosing their leaders. Perhaps they won't want to repeat the experience of having a few thousand voters in a small state able to decapitate their party at the national level.

Since the 1950s, Senate leaders have come from such large states as Texas, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. But in addition to South Dakota and Nevada, small states such as Montana, West Virginia, Kansas and Maine have also produced party floor leaders.

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