Tales from the Trail

A tough act to follow in the U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON – Sen. Robert Menendez has a tough if not impossible act to follow as successor to Sen. Charles Schumer as chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign committee.

Using such words as “aggressive,” “focused,” “committed” and “widely respected,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday named Menendez as committee chair.

Menendez of New Jersey will need all of those qualities — and probably more — to achieve anywhere near the success that Schumer of New York has enjoyed the past two elections.

The committee chairman routinely travels the country raising money, recruiting candidates and helping map out strategy. It’s a time-consuming job that traditionally rotates among Democratic party members, and  Schumer faces re-election himself in 2010.

With Schumer at the helm, Democrats pulled off one of the biggest political surprises of the 2006 campaign season when they gained six Senate seats to take control of the chamber, 51-49.

Van Hollen agrees to stay as House Dem campaign chair

WASHINGTON – Like the manager of a championship baseball team, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen has agreed to stick around to try to help chalk up another winning season.

After last week’s election, which saw Democrats expand their majority in the 435-member House of Representatives by 22 to 257, Van Hollen indicated he had had enough. He said he didn’t expect to serve another term as chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped in and asked Van Hollen to keep the job, and he agreed, party aides said.

“The speaker believed he did a great job and wanted him to stay,” one aide said.