“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” said Schumer, who led the DSCC to big gains in 2006 and 2008.
So, after going months without hosting his signature Sunday press conference, the middle-class warrior surfaced on the Upper West Side this morning to do just that.
“Bottom line is this: In my view, the middle class this election felt both beleaguered and no one’s talking to them,” said Schumer, who managed more than 65 percent of the vote in a decidedly non-Democratic year. “The first party that will solve that problem, the first individuals that will solve that problem, will be the heroes of the next election.
“The public is up for grabs. The middle class is up for grabs. The party, the candidates, the individuals, that reassure the middle class that they’re focusing on them and then effectively do something about it will predominate in the next election.”
Schumer sounded the theme over and over, in nearly every answer. (He said “middle class” at least 13 times during the brief question-and-answer session.)
On what advice he would have for the president, Schumer said: “My advice to the president is the same as my advice to every elected official of either party: focus on the middle class like a laser, on creating good paying jobs, and help the middle class stretch that paycheck, which is now shrinking.”
Not surprisingly, he recommended keeping the Bush tax cuts for the middle class–and only the middle class. “I’m all for the tax cuts for the middle class, but not for people who make a million dollars or more a year,” he said.
Asked whether he supports Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced on Friday she would run for minority leader, Schumer said: “I don’t have a vote in that election. But individual political leaders and parties, houses, have to focus on middle class people and they’ll succeed. And if they don’t, they’ll fail.”
(He was more direct with regard to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who Schumer said he fully supports and has spoken to every day since the election.)
Before his session with reporters, Schumer shook hands outside that most middle-class of institutions, Trader Joe’s. “Got a nice margin, just want to say thank you,” he told one passerby.
Another whispered something in his ear, to which Schumer replied: “You know what the Chinese say? Danger is opportunity. That’s what I believe.”
And several constituents formed an outer ring around the press as Schumer took queries–with one trying to jump in with a question about why his premiums have gone up since the health care bill passed.
“It had nothing to do with the health care,” Schumer told him after the press conference. He said the state insurance commissioner was knocking down certain rate increases, and that his office would try to help.
After answering a few more questions from voters, Schumer decamped for his next stop–a Costco on Long Island.