MyDD Interview with Chuck Schumer

On Thursday morning I was invited to the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, to speak with him on a range of issues. The following is the rush transcript of my interview, which is available in streaming form and downloadable .mp3 from Odeo (though I have not been able to clear the technical hurdle of embedding their player on MyDD yet, which I hope to do soon).

This is the first of four interviews from my trip to DC for the DNC's winter meetings last week that I will post on consecutive mornings this week, with the series continuing tomorrow with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Now, the interview:

Chuck Schumer: So, it's nice to meet you. I read your stuff. I enjoy it.

Jonathan Singer: It's a real pleasure also.

Schumer: We don't have too much time because they called a vote.

Singer: No problem. The map looks good -

Schumer: Let me just start out, one thing, to let the blogosphere know. I think what the blogosphere did in 2006 was incredibly great, particularly with Webb and Tester. We intend to work really closely with the blogosphere in this cycle. In fact next month we're going to have our first online chat where we ask people for suggestions. And here's what's so important: The map is an interesting map. In a sense it's good; we have 12 Democrats and 21 Republicans and we're feeling good about the 12 Democrats who are incumbents. But the 21 Republicans by and large come from very tough states. You have very few deeply blue states. Last time we had Pennsylvania, which was a pretty blue state, and Rhode Island, which was a very blue state. We don't have many of those this time. New Hampshire is slightly blue, Maine is a little more blue, Oregon is slightly blue, Minnesota is slightly blue. But none of them you'd call more than 52 percent Democratic states.

So we've got to find candidates all over. And this is where the blogosphere excels. There may be somebody, a state Rep. or even not, in Alabama who might be a very good candidate. So we intend to have a good, close relationship and work together the way we did, sort of, towards the end last time. The sort of M.O. last time was the netroots community found the candidates, more or less, then we helped them later on in the race, Webb, Tester would be the two classics. But I think it's going to be more close - I know it's going to be more close this year.

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Super Sunday: Spitzer, Sen Schumer campaign for open NYS Senate seat

Governor Eliot Spitzer and Senator Chuck Schumer are coming out to Long Island to campaign with Craig Johnson (D-WFP) today as Craig launches his "Moving New York Forward - 33 Stops in 33 Hours" tour.  Craig Johnson (D-WFP) is running in the Feb 6 special election for an open State Senate seat in New York's Seventh District on Long Island.

Starting this morning and going until the voting starts, Craig is campaigning in every one of the 33 villages in the Seventh District, leaving no stone unturned to Get Out the Vote.  The tour will take Craig to morning bagel stops and popular lunch spots, religious services and Super Bowl parties.

Come out and meet Craig and help the campaign Get Out The Vote!

Can't make it out? Help with a donation.

The Johnson campaign Sunday schedule is after the jump.

2 days until Election Day!

Volunteer | Donate

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Legislation Via Youtube

Ok, well it's not that big a deal, but Senator Byron Dorgan is on Youtube introducing his net neutrality bill.  Dorgan is one of the best Senators we have, an extremely progressive politician from North Dakota who is also quite popular.  Dorgan gives the lie to the whole red state nonsense.  There are corporate elites and the South, and then there's everyone else.

It's pretty cool that Dorgan is going directly to internet communities to drive support for his bill.

It's not surprising that Dorgan would go directly to the people for support.  He's always been a progressive populist recognizing that our elites are selling us out.  

I am though surprised and heartened by Senator Schumer's recent comments about blogs.  I tend not to care if a politician praises blogs, since that could easily be dismissed as pandering.  What is clear about Schumer's comments is that he 'gets' the larger forces at work here.

I read KOS -- I read the whole thing but I read it once every couple of days. But I go for the subject more than the blog. But I like the political blogs, and I think the blogs democratize things.

So my family and I saw this movie. ... It was a movie about -- Oh no. Sorry. It was a play: "Jersey Boys." That's it. It's about The Four Seasons, the old singing group. Do you remember them? And it had great songs. And it was just a whole lot of fun.

This is the night before Thanksgiving. It's the one show we go to. We can't afford many shows, so the one show we go to a year is the night before Thanksgiving because my wife doesn't have to cook Thanksgiving dinner. My sister-in-law always does.

Anyway, it was just great. I loved it. Then I went home and read The New York Times review. The review, it was so snide -- that it wasn't great art and this and that.

But then, they had a blog on it, and people wrote their own reviews. And everyone loved it. And I said to myself, "I'm so glad the bloggers -- they democratize it."

Do you know what I mean? Here you have this sort of very snobby critic who goes to a hundred plays a year and is looking for things the average person wouldn't even care about, and yet the blogs criticized his review and brought him down to earth.

So yeah, I like them. I think it's a good democratizing force.

I've met Schumer and talked to him approximately once, at an American Prospect roundtable for liberal media (which Maria Leavey used to set up).  The transcript of the meeting is here. One thing you'll note about Schumer is that he hates what he perceives as cultural elitism, and having been elected in 1980, he ascribes elitism to liberal groups.

Reagan came in; we deserved to lose. We stopped being democrats -- small "d" -- talking to average people about what affects their lives, and instead had these ideologies. OK, Reagan comes in and basically accomplishes a lot of things that he wanted to accomplish, especially on those type issues -- crime. I spent 10 years trying to get the Democratic Party to move to the middle on crime.

In the discussion, if you read it, there's an interesting back-and-forth between Schumer and Mark Schmitt in which Schmitt tries to point out to Schumer that Moveon and the blogs are not single-issue liberal narrow-minded groups, but are instead broad-based constituencies that have as much concern about the Bankruptcy Bill as abortion.  I could sense that Schumer was trying to argue that something fundamental had shifted in American politics since 1980, but that he didn't get that the same fundamental shift had happened in the liberal community itself.

Anyway, it's important that this incredibly intelligent and abrasive Senator, a man who is really a force, gets that the internet is a democratizing force, that the New York Times theater critic is as unrepresentative as Adam Nagourney of the concerns of the public.  Schumer hit Alito on abortion, but he didn't believe that there was an organized group that cared about the unitary executive.  There is, and it's on the internet.  If Schumer can make the shift, and recognize that he could have allies on broader issues like constitutional prerogatives instead of just narrowly focused liberal groups he didn't like in 1980, he and the progressive movement can generate a lot of political leverage.

It's a bit unusual to hear what sounds like praise for a figure I have derided in the past, but I have always had respect for Schumer's immense abilities and sense of the political zeitgeist (unlike Rahm Emanuel, who strikes me as less capable of effective strategic insight).  If Schumer is moving to take internet progressives as a serious and democratizing force, that means a whole lot of others are as well.

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Democrats Hunt Best in Packs and Other Election Facts

Extending the field paid off in a big way on Election Day for democrats.  At least three real long shots came through to win House seats: Carol Shea-Porter in Ne Hampshire, Jason Altmire in Pennsylvania and and Nancy Boyda in Kansas.  Late DCCC money went to Boyda and Altmire but we are talking real late.

Extending the field paid off in another, more surprising way.  Nearly every seat the Democrats won came from a state in which at least two seats were targeted.  Single seat efforts in places like New Jersey, Virginia, New Mexico and (mostly) Illinois came close but were expensive failures. A case by case analysis follows below the fold.

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Reid Entices Schumer to Stay at DSCC with Leadership Post

Almost two years ago today, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was able to cajole Chuck Schumer into remaining in the Senate (rather than making a run for Governor in New York) and chairing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee by offering him both a much-coveted seat on the Finance Committee. Though some have remaining complaints about the job Schumer has done at the DSCC (his role, perceived or real, in the Ohio Senate primary is much cited), few can judge his overall tenure as anything less than an overwhelming success.

Now, as Alex Bolton reports for The Hill, Reid has once again offered Schumer an enticement to chair the DSCC, this time by creating a new leadership position within the Senate Democratic caucus just for Schumer.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who played an instrumental role in helping Democrats regain majority control of the Senate, has been rewarded with the third-ranking post in the Senate Democratic leadership.

In return for the promotion, Schumer will again lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in the 2008 election cycle.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) announced to colleagues during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he has created a new position in the leadership for Schumer. The new post, vice chairman of the caucus, will rank behind Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the incoming majority whip, and ahead of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the incoming Democratic conference secretary.

The deal creating the new position was still being negotiated between Schumer and Democratic leaders yesterday afternoon. Democratic sources said yesterday that Schumer would serve another election cycle as chairman of the DSCC. But also yesterday afternoon Schumer said that while Reid and Durbin had asked him to serve another cycle, he was not yet prepared to announce his plans.

With several great opportunities for the Democrats to pick up even more Senate seats in two years, it's important for the DSCC to have as its chair someone with a strong fundraising capability and a track record of success not only at recruiting strong candidates but also at actually wining elections.

I don't mean to overstate the importance of fundraising or to minimize the role the national political environment plays in the results of Senate elections around the country. In 2004, then-DSCC Chairman Jon Corzine did a fine job at both raising money and finding top-notch candidates only to see the Democrats net a loss of four seats in the Senate. It would be unfair to blame the losses of Tony Knowles in Alaska, Brad Carson in Oklahoma, Betty Castor in Florida, Erskine Bowles in North Carolina and others on Corzine just as it would be wrong to give Schumer all the credit for the Democrats' perhaps surprising gain of six Senate seats one week ago.

Nonetheless, with both his experience and his track record, Chuck Schumer brings a lot to the DSCC. So kudos once again to Harry Reid for maneuvering to put Schumer in that position and help maximize the Democrats' chances at winning more seats in the United States Senate.

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