Senate Democrats choose losers to lead

November 2, 2010

[Updated to correct date of Daschle defeat.] For the second time in less than a decade, the Senate Democrats are finding themselves with a leader facing political extinction. Tom Daschle, Harry Reid’s predecessor as the leader of the Senate Democrats, lost his own reelection race in 2002 in 2004, having become minority leader after the 2002 elections. For Democrats, this is not an unprecedented experience.  In the 1950s, back-to-back Democratic leaders also lost their seats.

Checking out the relatively short history of the Senate Leader position shows that the Democrats have been more willing to choose vulnerable members. There have been only 11 Senate Democratic leaders (the position officially came into existence in 1920), and four have lost reelection campaigns.

Republicans have, in some ways, a happier success rate. The first Republican leader, though unofficial, was Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who died in office in 1924. Including both of those men, of the Republicans’ 17 leaders (one was only acting), only one lost his reelection campaign, James Watson of Indiana in the FDR tidal wave of 1932. In other ways, not so happy. Five of their leaders have died in office (as opposed to only one for the Democrats).

There is no real explanation for the Democrats’ willingness to choose among the electorally vulnerable—each leadership election is unique and involves personality issues that have nothing to do with the history of the office. But, there are advantages to having a majority leader from a swing state. Just by dint of being elected in a state that could go either way, these Senators may be more attuned to the nation as a whole, and better able to pull the party from extreme positions. But the downside is that it may make them more vulnerable to losing—Reid became the face of the Democrats in the Senate, and as such is blamed by conservatives.

The Democrats can take comfort in the knowledge that it’s hard to believe Reid’s leadership position will be what cost him his seat—he would have been targeted anyway. He was vulnerable incumbent, and there is no reason to think he would have received any easier treatment from Republicans or conservative groups than Blanche Lincoln or Russ Feingold.

If Reid is out, the Democrats will not be trying for a three-peat. His most likely successors, Chuck Schumer or Dick Durbin, both reside in much safer seats.

Joshua Spivak is a PR executive and senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College.


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perhaps its because they over-reach as did these leaders…

Posted by BHOlied | Report as abusive

Perhaps it’s because the GOP targets the Democratic leaders like they did in this election by demonizing Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

There is no need to demonize any Dems; they do the job themselves, and do it enthusiastically. Both Pelosi and Reid are (hope soon they’ll be referenced in the past tense: were) very close to Obama. And Obama seems to have a Midas touch: anything he touches turns into a muffler.

Posted by anonym0us | Report as abusive


Even the Tea Party will also be held accountable, as will those lawmakers already in Washington. That is the promise of the Tea Party to the American people. A new vision for this country is at hand, that will scrub clean the corruption in Washington, deep six the Liberal extremists, and stem the unfavorable tide of special interests groups that have crippled the people’s interests. Hopefully this will eliminate the Tax and spend mountainous problem, which is already out-of-control with revised 16 Trillion US dollar deficit. More balanced free trade agreements and a revised Health Care package, that doesn’t bankrupt America. ATTENTION: Watch for irregularities at the Polling places and be observant of voter fraud with absentee ballots. LARGE POPULATION OF NON CITIZENS WHO VOTE COULD COMPROMISE ANY CLOSE RUN RACE. HAVING ALREADY VIOLATED THE LAW, FOREIGN NATIONALS HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. CALIFORNIA, NEVADA AND OTHER BORDER STATES MUST BE CAREFULLY SCRUTINIZED.

Remember! That if you are for the State of Arizona rigid enforcement of Immigration law which includes SB1070, it would be extremely foolhardy to vote back any Liberal-Democrat to the House or Senate, as they can do much damage to our wilting economy. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada has already promised to attach The Dream Act, to any new Amnesty. Senator Barbara Boxer is of the same mind, that the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens should be rewarded even though they broke the law. America has become a welfare entitlement landing place for the destitute of the world. Yet the American people are treated with indifference and rejected for their economic needs? The thought of adding another 2.6 Trillion dollars (Heritage Foundation estimate) to our already diminished reservoir of public services for the use of illegal aliens, is absolutely irrational. Casino head’s have likely intimidated their staff to vote for Harry Reid, as the entertainment and service industries are well supplied with illegal workers. The thought passed through my mind, that Tea Party members should boycott Harrah and other Casino’s? Harry Reid apposed the permanence of E-Verify, the 287 (g) local police arrest of aliens, and did nothing just like California did squat about closing illegal aliens from jobs meant for citizens. The construction industry has made massive profits, by contractors laying-off Americans for illegal cheap labor.

Posted by Brittanicus | Report as abusive

The problem is, it’s a civil infraction and doesn’t become a serious offense, until you reenter the United States after being deported? It up to the new Congress and specifically TEA PARTY members to uphold the 1986 immigration law, and perhaps make it a felony like other countries, including Mexico. None of the Incumbents want to open the proverbial can of worms, as they are all Pro-Amnesty. It would be like Icarus flying into the sun, with wax wings.No Liberal has any gonads to tell the truth of their so-called progressive ideology. Even Gubnatorial Jerry Brown has stayed silent, about what to do about the principle Sanctuary Cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, as both have been infiltrated by Liberal progressives, who want no border and the free flow of cheap labor. How can any Politician really even think of allowing a run on the border should there be another Amnesty, when millions and millions of Americans have no job? The TEA PARTY must turn their attention to stopping the drain of jobs to foreign lands, as our manufacturing base is been obliterated by unfair competition from mainly China. We must bring jobs home and stop patronizing Mexico, as hundreds of companies have product bases there and selling them back to America. We cannot go on like this as the US dollar, will soon be worth less than other developed nations. We must rid ourselves of the cheap, shoddy goods from China and start buying made in the USA again.

Former president Bill Clinton effort for Jerry Brown, will not stop the avalanche of NEW TEA PARTY members from changing their agenda. Jerry Brown is likely to win so will be owing a lot of favors to Union, who packed his campaign war chest. His Sanctuary city policies will destroy his Liberal plans, that has drawn massive criminal aliens into the State in the form of illegal gang members who have slaughtered innocent citizens. Possible new Lieutenant Governor’s Gavin Newsom, another hard core liberal should he win, will also bring with him the blemish of illegal alien murders, rapes, assaults to his new position and his neglect to enforce immigration laws in San Francisco. Reid’s Nevada has the highest unemployment nationwide, and Boxers California have some of the highest jobless rates in the nation. The Tea Party and other proponents will not open the border gates, and will use a composite of the new state of the art E-Verify, to start dislodging illegal workers.

Posted by Brittanicus | Report as abusive

Now we will have Tea Party idiots who do not even know the Constitution. I just shows the dirty negative ads many of which are not true or distort the facts work well for the GOP. Now they had better do some good work or they will really be on the hot seat for being so vocal about the opposition. God help this country; we need it with the GOP in charge of anything.

Posted by dennisaa | Report as abusive