On Thursday, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) will take over as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, replacing Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). After Senate Democrats lost handily in the 2014 midterms, giving the majority in the chamber to Republicans, some senators took their names out of the running for the job. Going into this week, the decision seemed to be between Tester and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). When Coons bowed out, Reid decided to go with the red state residing Tester likely due to the fact that he’s won two Senate elections despite competing on Republican soil.
The DSCC released the following statement announcing Tester’s ascension:
“Jon Tester knows how to win tough races and will have the trust and loyalty of the entire Democratic caucus behind him in our fight to take back the majority in 2016,” said Leader Reid. “I’m extremely confident in Jon’s ability to lead our effort to elect new Democratic leaders and reelect our incumbents across the country who will stand up for the people of their state and fight for American middle class families.”
“I’m accepting this position to recruit and support candidates who understand the issues facing regular, working Americans,” said Senator Jon Tester. “Our country needs leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and responsibly govern to move our nation forward. We need senators who support policies that strengthen the middle class, continue to grow our economy, and create prosperity for all Americans. As Chairman, I recognize that every Senate race in this country is different and I understand the need for candidates to have the flexibility to run their own races.”
For liberals that want to see the Democratic Party move further left after a disastrous election cycle where the party ran to the center and suffered defeats across the board, this announcement is something of a mixed-bag. As Tester is from Montana, it is unsurprising that he is a moderate who has a center-left ideology. His views on gun control, immigration reform, taxes, the environment and marijuana legalization run counter to most progressives and liberals.
Also, with Republicans having to defend a number of seats in 2016 in blue states during a general election year, left-wing Democrats may have been more comfortable with a true progressive or liberal manning the chair rather than a centrist. Still, it is a very favorable map for Democrats. On top of that, Tester has shown a knack for winning tough elections in the past, so perhaps his knowledge and experience will prove a benefit for the party’s attempt to regain the Senate.
Another factor in Reid’s decision in placing Tester in this position could be that Reid is trying to bolster and reinforce support for his own leadership as Senate Democrats move into the minority. The outgoing Majority Leader was elected Minority Leader on Thursday. Centrist and conservative members of the caucus have not expressed much confidence in him and are pushing for Reid to compromise more with Republicans over the next two years. Two of the loudest voices calling for Reid to kowtow to McConnell are Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Manchin has said he isn’t going to deal with any “bullsh*t” if he thinks Senate Democrats are obstructing the Republican majority. This came on the heels of rumors that Manchin was thinking of switching parties and caucusing as a Republican. Meanwhile, McCaskill has echoed Manchin’s comments and has also said that she did not vote for Reid as Minority Leader. Other red state Dems are also clamoring for Reid to be more accepting of Republicans’ demands.
Therefore, as the needle points left for Democrats, Reid appears to be throwing the (now fewer) moderates and conservatives in his caucus a bone by handing a key leadership position to one of them. Reid obviously acknowledges the party’s need need to move in a more progressive direction, hence the creation of a leadership position for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).He’s hoping this gesture shows the few remaining ‘Blue Dogs’ in the Senate that he will still allow them to have some voice in the caucus, but not be the overpowering one. We saw how that worked earlier this month.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).