Every candidate to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, including a top pick, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, has already declined the job once, leaving Majority Leader Harry Reid with the task of talking someone into changing his or her mind this week.
Staffers involved in the process of naming a successor to Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said that pressure on Murray has increased in part because she did not reject the job as forcefully as did Mark Warner of Virginia, Colorado's Michael Bennet, and others. Murray is also one of the most-senior Democrats courted for the job, and she has the experience of having headed the committee in the 2002 election cycle.
One staffer familiar with the recruitment process said that there was definitely some pressure being applied to Murray.
But Senate aides and Murray herself were quick to note the Reid still views other senators who have turned down the job once as possibilities, and cautioned that having said no is not necessarily anyone's final answer.
"The leader has asked a lot of people," Murray said on Thursday when asked about the courtship for the job. "We'll see." She declined to elaborate.
Senate aides said that Reid, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina have all pressed Murray to accept. But a key question is why Murray, who is already part of the Democratic leadership and a top Senate appropriator, would take the job. She is just off a narrow reelection win.
Her previous tenure was marked by successful fundraising – she raised a then-record $143 million for candidates – but Democrats lost two seats and Senate control that year.
If Murray took the job again, she would face long odds of protecting an exceptionally large class of party incumbents. Only 10 Republican seats are up in 2012; Democrats must defend 23, including those in Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, all states where Republicans fared well this year.
On the GOP side, although things may change, only Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and John Ensign of Nevada are running in blue states or are now seen as being in jeopardy.
The difficult election-year map, along with the perception that it is harder to raise money for congressional candidates when the president is on the ballot, makes the DSCC chairmanship an unappetizing post this year, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said last week.
Reid will try nail down the DSCC chairmanship this week. “The announcement will come probably the week after” Thanksgiving, he said last week.
“We’re in no rush to do that,” Reid added. “But I think I’m in pretty good shape.”
Other senators who have publicly or privately declined the DSCC chairmanship include Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Mark Udall of Colorado, and Al Franken of Minnesota.
This article appears in the November 22, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.