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What Reid Endorsing Schumer As Top Democrat Means

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York stands a podium March 3 as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada looks on. Reid is backing Schumer to be his replacement as Democratic leader.

Harry Reid's exit could have ignited a scramble to fill the power vacuum among Senate Democrats.

But the Nevada senator is doing his best to avoid what he called a "knock-down, drag-out fight" by endorsing Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat better known as Chuck, who has been Reid's top lieutenant for years.

"He will be elected to replace me in 22 months," Reid told KNPR about Schumer. "One reason that will happen is because I want him to be my replacement."

Reid called Schumer "a brilliant man" and "a tremendous asset."

Paul Kane of The Washington Post, who first reported Friday that Reid had endorsed Schumer, also notes per Reid that another possible candidate, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, is likely to stand aside.

Schumer — a high-profile, camera-loving New Yorker — is a very different type of leader than the softer-spoken, rules-maven Reid. Schumer has been waiting in the wings of power for years. He's largely seen as the most influential Democrat in the Senate not named Reid.

Schumer has been in Reid's ear — and by his side — for a decade and is responsible for much of the caucus's messaging. In fact, Schumer and Reid merged communications offices to have a more unified voice.

And Schumer has this trump card: From 2005 to 2009, when he was in charge of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — the group responsible for getting Democrats elected to the Senate — Democrats picked up 14 seats, and control of the chamber in 2006. That means a lot of chits for Schumer to cash in.

He still might not have a total walk. He could get some competition from someone who knows a little something about running — in tennis shoes — Patty Murray of Washington state.

Murray also ran the DSCC, from 2011 to 2013, albeit with less success. Democrats picked up one seat in 2012, which is not quite Schumer's record.

But Schumer does have his vulnerabilities — namely his penchant for getting attention (for himself) and his ties to Wall Street.

The Democratic caucus has become more populist, and that's an avenue Murray could play, if she chooses to run. Also mull this over: If Murray were able to pull it off, and Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, that would mean an all-female Democratic leadership in Washington with Nancy Pelosi in the House.

But with Reid's support, Schumer will be tough to beat.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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