Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has earned a reputation for message discipline. The New York Democrat has plenty of experience talking to journalists; he generally knows exactly what he wants to say; and it’s not often that he makes a rhetorical mistake or gets thrown off message.
But when the Senate leader is speaking informally to an ally, and he doesn’t realize that media professionals can hear him, we’re treated to the kind of unvarnished candor Schumer tends to avoid in public. Take yesterday, for example. The New York Times reported:
When politicians play pundit, it rarely reflects well on them. Which makes what happened Thursday, when Senator Chuck Schumer of New York was caught on a hot microphone assessing the Democrats’ chances of retaining power, such an anomaly. His comments, made while greeting President Biden on the tarmac at Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, were mostly positive, talking up his party’s fortunes. The remarks ricocheted around social media on an otherwise slow political news day — and not to his, or his party’s, detriment.
Not surprisingly given where we are in the election cycle, when Biden and Schumer met, their conversation quickly turned to closely watched Senate races, starting with the contest in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman struggled through a debate this week as a result of his recent stroke.
“It looks like the debate didn’t hurt us too much in Pennsylvania as of today,” the majority leader told the president. “So that’s good.” He added, “I think we’re picking up steam in Nevada,” referring to the highly competitive race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Adam Laxalt.
On the other hand, Schumer went on to tell Biden, “The state where we’re going downhill is Georgia. It’s hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker.”
The senator added, “But our early turnout in Georgia, huge. Huge.”
Schumer also mentioned that Democrats were “in danger“ of losing a seat, but it wasn’t clear which race he was referring to.
In case this isn’t obvious, the Senate Democratic leader, especially this time of year, is receiving frequent and detailed briefings from the party’s top officials. What Schumer told Biden — again, in casual comments that were not intended for the public — was based on the latest intra-party data.
And that data apparently suggests that if Democrats intend to help Sen. Raphael Warnock defeat Herschel Walker, they have some work to do.
As recently as two weeks ago, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast showed the Democratic incumbent with a 60% chance of winning. As of this morning, that same forecast found the challenger — by some measures, the worst Republican Senate candidate ever — with a 53% chance of success.