This post has been updated.
Let there be no doubt: When Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) retires in 22 months, the post of Senate Democratic leader will be Charles E. Schumer's to lose.
That was mostly clear Friday, when Reid and assistant leader Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) both swiftly endorsed the New Yorker for floor leader in the hours after Reid announced his retirement, forestalling a potential brawl between Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat, and Schumer, who as Democratic Conference vice chairman, is No. 3.
Now it is completely clear, thanks to the endorsement of another Senate leader, Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who could have mounted a credible but long-shot bid for the top chair.
"Senator Murray spoke to Senator Schumer several times over the past few days and told him that she planned to support him for leader next Congress and looks forward to continuing to be his partner in Senate Democratic leadership," an aide said Monday. Roll Call first reported Murray's endorsement.
For Schumer, Murray's support all but locks up a post he earned through his leadership of Senate Democrats' national campaign effort in 2006 and 2008, and more recently as the leader of the party's messaging and policy apparatus. Murray, who has also led the national fundraising committee and won the respect of colleagues during her time as Budget Committee chair, is poised to move up to Schumer's current post or perhaps challenge Durbin for the whip post.
While another Democratic senator could seek to become floor leader, such a move would be highly unlikely to succeed barring new and unfavorable circumstances for Schumer, who has assiduously positioned himself to rise up the Democratic leadership ladder.
One senator eyed for a bigger role in Democratic politics, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, had kind words for Schumer in a National Public Radio interview Monday -- despite the perception that the unabashedly liberal Warren is seen to be at odds with Schumer's pro-Wall Street sentiments.
"Chuck was one of the first people to support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and to get out there and fight for it," Warren said. "He's been there on the front lines."
An outspoken proponent of Democratic policies, Schumer is also known for crossing the aisle and keeping his criticism of Republicans out of the personal realm — which won him kudos from some strange quarters over the weekend. Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC host and former Republican congressman, called Schumer "a big trade up, not for the Democratic Party but for America."
"Like Tip O'Neill, the one thing he hates more than Republicans' philosophy is gridlock and getting nothing done," Scarborough said on NBC's "Meet the Press," referencing the former Democratic speaker of the House.