More than any other Democrat in Congress, Schumer is responsible for his party’s gains over the past four years. From his perch atop the DSCC, he has focused his frenetic energy on rebuilding the caucus, and has tossed aside the committee chairman’s customary deference to the state parties in order to pick the candidates he sizes up as winners—an unpleasant business that has entailed relentlessly pursuing his sometimes-reluctant targets and bullying everyone else to the sidelines. Then he drills his charges on every facet of the campaign, from raising money to capturing media attention, a formula so scrupulously replicated that he has dubbed it the Schumer Method. Finally, he infuses them with a set of policy proposals, ranging from middle-class tax cuts to college-tuition tax deductions, that reflect his staunchly held political philosophy, best summed up as a rigorous fealty to the interests of the middle class. “When Chuck gets up in the morning, he’s thinking about the middle class,” Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat elected to the Senate in 2006, told me. “When he goes to bed, he’s thinking about it. When he writes books, he writes books about it. Maybe coincidentally, maybe not, his issues are issues that people in Montana find important. He focuses on values that everyone in the caucus can support.” During his first two-year cycle as DSCC chairman, in 2004–2006, by what looked like sheer dint of effort, Schumer took the caucus from a perilously small 44 seats to a narrow majority, and then reenlisted for another cycle. By last fall, it was clear he would deliver again. It was also clear, as Democrats gained momentum and the economic crisis cast his ideas about the middle class into sudden stark relief, that his influence was growing.
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