Another Democratic Campaign Chairman, Another New Jersey Senator

(Brian Branch-price - AP)
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By Chris Cillizza
Monday, December 1, 2008

There must be something in the water in New Jersey when it comes to Senate campaigns.

Of the five people to serve as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the past decade, three have hailed from the Garden State. Sen. Bob Torricelli kicked things off as chairman during the 2000 cycle. He was followed by Sen. Jon Corzine, who led the organization during the 2004 election. Now the torch (ahem) is being passed to Sen. Bob Menendez, who will lead the DSCC in 2010 after a four-year stint by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.

"Our caucus will be well served by Bob Menendez, whose mastery of policy is matched only by his mastery of politics," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, himself a major Republican target in the next election.

Tom Shea, a senior adviser to Corzine, put it more succinctly when asked about the gaggle of Garden State politicos who have run the DSCC. "It's the Jersey attitude," Shea said. "We are not afraid of a good fight."

Menendez comes into the job with Senate Democrats in far better shape than either of his predecessors. Democrats are set to control 58 seats at the start of the 111th Congress, with two Republican-held seats, in Georgia and Minnesota, still undecided.

By the numbers, the 2010 landscape also favors Democrats -- 19 Republican senators are scheduled to run for reelection, compared with 16 Democrats. Republicans have obvious vulnerabilities in Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana and a group of potentially competitive seats in such places as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri.

Democrats, on the other hand, have few obvious problems. Reid is almost certain to be a target, but he has no obvious challenger after the defeat last month of Republican Rep. Jon Porter; expect Republicans to also go after Sens. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Russ Feingold (Wis.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.).

The historical record for previous New Jersey DSCC chairmen is mixed. Torricelli won four seats in 2000 but was driven from Congress less than two years later as scandal engulfed his reelection campaign. Corzine oversaw the loss of four seats four years later. He, too, left the Senate soon afterward, but his departure was voluntary, as he was elected governor of New Jersey in 2005. Corzine will stand for reelection next fall.

Menendez is up for reelection to a second term in 2012, and Republicans are already talking about their plans to make him a target.

Bad News, Good News for Reid

Speaking of Harry Reid, a new poll conducted for the liberal blog Daily Kos suggests he could be in trouble in 2010.

The Nov. 23-25 field survey by Research 2000 showed the senator from Nevada with an advantage of 46 percent to 40 percent over soon-to-be former Rep. Jon Porter (R). It also showed that just 38 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of Reid, while 54 percent have an unfavorable impression of him.

Of course, the poll is not without context. Reid is despised by the "Net roots" -- of which Kos is a leading voice -- because they believe he has not been bold enough on any number of issues, most recently the decision to keep independent Sen. Joe Lieberman within the Democratic caucus despite his support for GOP Sen. John McCain's presidential bid.

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