Report: AOC “seriously considering” primarying Chuck Schumer


This is almost certainly nonsense, fed to Politico for a strategic reason and duly published by the paper because, let’s face it, the idea of a Schumer/AOC death match for the soul of the Democratic Party is irresistible. It’s roughly as sensational as Mitch McConnell being primaried by Donald Trump Jr would be. (Okay, not that sensational.) Who cares if it’s true or not?

If you’re AOC or one of the many progressive activist groups allied with her and you’re looking to make sure that Schumer doesn’t favor the Joe Manchins of his caucus too heavily over the Bernie Sanderses, how do you keep him honest? Why, with empty threats of a Senate primary in 2022 if he doesn’t fight hard enough for the left’s agenda, of course. And so:

The two-term congresswoman is seriously considering campaigning for the seat but is so far undecided, according to people familiar with her thinking. Multiple sources said her decision will be contingent on how Schumer wields power with his new Democratic majority in the upcoming months: Will he be pushed around by Mitch McConnell? Or will he work to pass ambitious, progressive legislation favored by the left?…

“Whether it’s worth the left expending a lot of energy on primarying Chuck Schumer in 2022 certainly depends on what he does in 2021,” said Evan Weber, political director of the Sunrise Movement. “We’ve already seen a lot of evolution from Schumer on a whole host of issues, and if he keeps evolving and actually delivers for Democrats and can be the leader we need him to be right now, that’s the biggest thing he could do to avoid a big effort behind a primary from the left next year.”…

Given her national profile, Ocasio-Cortez’s allies are confident she would raise an enormous amount of money if she ran for Senate, perhaps as much as $100 million. She brought in nearly $20 million during her reelection campaign, which she won easily. Many are also bullish about her chances.

The part about her being able to raise a boatload of money is true enough. The problem for Ocasio-Cortez is that her name is now a byword for far-leftism and New York State traditionally just isn’t prone to electing radicals to statewide office. (They’re certainly prone to electing morons, as the current governor demonstrates on a daily basis.) Remember when actress Cynthia Nixon took a run at Cuomo in the gubernatorial primary a few years ago, running to his left? Nixon is sort of famous from her TV career and there was buzz around her by dint of AOC’s shocking upset victory in her House primary a few months earlier. Would 2018 be the year progressives finally broke through in New York? Result: Nope. Cuomo beat Nixon by 30 points.

AOC is a far more galvanizing figure than Nixon was. She wouldn’t lose by 30. But she’d very likely lose:

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Here’s the poll Bredderman’s referring to, published a few weeks ago. Compare AOC’s favorable rating…

…to Schumer’s:

He’s more popular than she is with basically every demographic, including Democrats, apart from liberals and Latinos. Even among the lower class of households earning less than $50,000 per year, Schumer scores a 42/35 favorability rating while the class warrior Ocasio-Cortez pulls a 32/38. Which isn’t that hard to understand: House Democrats in swing districts across the country complained after their poor showing last November that AOC-style rhetoric about socialism and defunding the police was poisonous among everyone but the most dogmatic progressives. Running a statewide race, she would face a less dogmatic electorate than she has in her own indigo blue House district. She couldn’t even plausibly assail Schumer for being “out of touch” with his state because he spends too much time in Washington, a criticism that led to Eliot Engel being successfully primaried last year. Politico notes that Schumer has been careful to signal his presence in New York with weekly press conferences for ages.

To make the odds against her even more daunting, Schumer isn’t some random senator like his colleague Kirsten Gillibrand is. He’s the new Senate majority leader. He decides which goodies end up in bills that come to the floor, a very nice development for the special interests that support him. Unless you’re a hard-left ideologue, you’d be nuts to be a New Yorker with some skin in the game — business, labor, what have you — and opt to reduce your own state’s influence by replacing the majority leader with a thirtysomething socialist backbencher who’s going to spend her entire term complaining that Congress isn’t left-wing enough.

I think she and her fellow travelers might get behind some far lesser-known lefty as a challenger to Schumer but that ultimately she won’t risk her own neck on a likely defeat. The only way I can imagine her getting traction is if the GOP ended up filibustering everything Biden wanted to do and Schumer remained unwilling to go nuclear in order to move Democratic policies through. In that case, Ocasio-Cortez could tell New York’s voters, “What good is having the majority leader be from your state if he can’t pass a bill and won’t do what it takes to do so?” Even there, though, Schumer would have an easy defense: It’s not *him* that refuses to get rid of the filibuster, it’s Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Replacing him with AOC won’t change that equation. In fact, Manchin’s and Sinema’s obstinacy makes it easy for Schumer to claim that he supports nuking the filibuster, thus aligning himself with lefties, knowing that it’s out of his hands to do anything about it. It’s a costless pander and one that would take some wind out of her sails. So what would be left of her candidacy?

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