Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is wrapping up his lengthy career at the end of this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s indifferent to the partisan makeup of the chamber he loves. The Nevada Democrat told MSNBC’s Joy Reid that he has some advice for Hillary Clinton as she evaluates running mates: don’t pick a senator from a state with a Republican governor.
“If we have a Republican governor in any of those states, the answer is not only no, but hell no. I would do whatever I can, and I think most of my Democratic colleagues here would say the same thing,” Reid told MSNBC’s “AM Joy” when asked about the possibility of Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) or Sherrod Brown (Ohio) being named Clinton’s No. 2.Reid added that he would “yell and scream to stop that.”
It’s easy to understand the motivation behind Reid’s concerns. Democrats need to earn a net gain of five Senate seats this year to reclaim the majority, and that’s no easy task. If Clinton chooses a senator from a state with a Republican governor, it may make the party’s task that much more difficult.
And given some of the likely VP contenders, this is more than just a thought experiment. Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Cory Booker would each bring quite a bit to a national ticket, but each of them represent states with a Republican governor, who would gladly appoint a Republican successor if any of them were promoted.
MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald recently took a closer look at this and noted that state laws vary quite a bit, but Clinton “would have to contend with an extra Republican in Senate for a minimum of about five months if she picked Warren, or nearly two years if she picked Brown.”
And given the amount of important legislating that can – and often does – happen in the first part of a new president’s first year, that’s a valuable chunk of calendar.
I’ve seen some suggestions that Warren, in particular, could pursue an alternate strategy: if Clinton invited her onto the national Democratic ticket, the Massachusetts senator could immediately resign her seat, sparking a special election that could elect her successor far more quickly. By Inauguration Day 2017, Warren’s replacement would already be in office, elected by progressive Bay State voters, instead of being appointed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R).
But this strategy carries plenty of risks of its own. For one thing, there’s hardly a guarantee the state would elect a Democrat in the special election (see Brown, Scott). For another, if Americans decide they want a President Trump in the White House, Elizabeth Warren would suddenly find herself out of office altogether.
To be sure, much of this is premature, but it’s a dynamic worth keeping an eye on. When the Clinton campaign weighs its options, don’t be surprised if this wrinkle helps push some Democrats in or out of contention.