U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez might not have received a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention, but apparently he’s still poised to enhance his clout in the Senate over the next few years. As Vice Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Menendez is expected to move up to the chairmanship next year when incumbent Charles Schumer moves on after two cycles on the job. That puts the junior Senator from New Jersey into a nationally visible role for the 2010 elections – when (based on historical precedent) Menendez will either be defending seats in Barack Obama’s mid-term election, or looking to pick some up in John McCain’s.
If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid retires in 2010 or loses his re-election bid (independent polls in Nevada have shown Reid to be struggling for positive job approval ratings), Menendez could try to move up in the Senate leadership – especially if Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) takes over for Reid. No minority has ever served as leader or whip in the Senate.
By the way, the race to succeed Reid could be interesting: Durbin is a close political ally of Obama, and some Democrats have suggested that Hillary Clinton might seek the Majority Leader post, should Reid not return. Durbin vs. Clinton would be 2008 all over again.