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Schumer sees a Democratic revival

Sen. Chuck Schumer has never shied away from the politics aspect of being a major government figure in this state and country.

It's part of the deal in Brooklyn, just like in Buffalo.

Maybe that's why he revels in his role as chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the panel charged with electing more Democrats to the Senate. And his confidence stems from what he thinks are good chances of doing just that.

"It's changed," he said of the nation's mood while in Buffalo a few days ago. "I think there's greater disillusionment with the president, people are open to new ideas, and we've done a pretty good job."

Schumer runs a Senate minority of 44 Democrats and one independent against 55 Republicans, but likes what he sees this November. He's got money in his campaign bank, has kept strong senators in re-election mode and has fended off GOP attempts against targets in red states.

"Kent Conrad, one of our most vulnerable Democrats . . . doesn't even have an opponent," he said. "Robert Byrd -- they tried to get a very popular congresswoman to run against him.

"We are now ahead in five Republican incumbent seats," he added.

He doesn't make predictions, he said, but does say it's good to be a Democrat.

Former Rep. Bill Paxon, who once held Schumer's campaign job for the House Republicans, used to predict that a permanent Republican majority would dwell there. As an architect of the 1994 Contract with America, Paxon thought the rise of Southern and Western states and their GOP voters boded well for his guys. For years, nothing changed to cast any real doubt over Paxon's analysis.

But Schumer sees a metamorphosis, exacerbated by a war in Iraq that he supports but which is not going well. He thinks most voters are again receptive to a Democratic message, even if Democrats "got out of control" during the time that Paxon and Co. were scoring big wins.

When he discovered upon his election to the House in 1980 that the ACLU actually wrote most crime legislation, it struck him like a "thunderbolt."

"That was not where America was at," he said, "so Reagan came in and said 'shrink government,' and that lasted till I would say 2001."

Now, he says technology has progressed so far that terrorists use it to control our destiny and the nation is part of a global economy. That's the force, he said, that will swing the pendulum leftward.

"People need government," he said. "Joe and Jill Smith living in Orchard Park . . . they think they've done well, and when Democrats condescend to people like that, it drives me crazy. But they need help with the big financial nuts of paying for college and paying for health care.

"And so the idea that government is your enemy is gone," he added, "and that was the core of the Reagan Republicans. Just as New Deal democracy died in 1980, now Reagan Republicanism has died."

That's a mouthful, even for a committed Democrat like Chuck Schumer. He boils it down to this year's election as a referendum on President Bush -- followed by a major shift in this nation's philosophy of government.

"He and the people around him, Dick Cheney and others, have a negative attitude toward government," Schumer said. "It doesn't work any more."

He also says Democrats will soon offer specifics to bring the voters back.

If his logic is correct, its means those forces will also prevail in the presidential election of 2008. That would confirm his conviction that those who don't like government fail at running government, and can only encourage his Senate colleague from Chappaqua.

"I think the public is wide open," he said.

Schumer has been good at winning elections to the Assembly, House and Senate over the past three decades. In fact, he's never lost.

If he's right on this one, he'll score his biggest win of all.


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