Harry Reid will retire after leading Senate Democrats since 2005, but he has left no doubt as to his succession.

When Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) announced his retirement on Friday morning, it was a shock to many in the media, not least because Reid and his staff had insisted that he was planning to seek reelection in the wake of a January injury that has left him near-blind in his right eye. But never one to leave the important decisions to others—or the voters, for that matter—Reid immediately anointed his chosen successors to the Senate leadership and the Nevada Senate seat that he first won in 1986.

For the leadership, Reid threw his support behind Caucus Vice Chair Chuck Schumer (NY), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, bypassing Minority Whip Dick Durbin (IL). Ever since an incredibly successful tenure as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2006 and 2008 elections, when Democrats gained fourteen Senate seats, Schumer has positioned himself to succeed Reid at the helm of the Democratic caucus. Durbin has already given his support to Schumer—who has garnered broad support from all sides of the caucus, from Joe Manchin (WV) to Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)—and will try to remain Whip. The only other potential contender, former Budget Chair and caucus #4 Patty Murray (WA), could challenge Durbin but a run against Schumer would likely be futile. So while Democrats will not vote until Reid leaves the Senate in January 2017, the leadership battle looks like it will be far more like Reid’s unanimous ascension in 2005 than the 24-23 nailbiter won by his predecessor, Tom Daschle (SD) over Chris Dodd (CT) in 1994.

And while his Senate seat will go before the voters in 2016, Reid has made his preference there clear as well: former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. Masto who could face a number of current and former Republican state officials, including State Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson and ex-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, both of whom were thought likely to challenge Reid. After President Obama won a clear victory over Mitt Romney in 2012, Nevada Republicans won big in 2014 on the coattails of tremendously popular Gov. Brian Sandoval, who would be the overwhelming favorite for the seat if he ran but seems uninterested. The brand of the state party is still questionable however, and Sandoval has faced a series of messy fights with Republicans in the legislature. But even without Sandoval, this should be Republicans’ best chance to pick up a Senate seat in 2016.

Reid’s retirement was only the last bit of Senate news from an action-packed week. Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) announced his retirement, followed by no fewer than five of the Indiana’s seven Republican congressmen expressing interest in succession. One of them was Coats aide and former state party chair Eric Holcomb, who took the plunge a few days after his boss’s announcement. On the Democratic side, Indiana has been a rough slog (with the exception of Sen. Joe Donnelly’s upset win over controversial Republican Richard Mourdock in 2012) since President Obama’s surprise victory in 2008. Ex-Sen. Evan Bayh, however, would be a formidable nominee. Bayh retired unexpectedly in 2010, but still holds $10 million in his campaign accounts and has not ruled out a return. Even Bayh would probably be an underdog; the rest of the Democratic bench is quite weak and would be even further in the hole.

Finally, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) announced a run for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat; Rubio has pledged to not seek reelection if, as seems quite likely, he enters the presidential sweepstakes. Murphy won an impressive twenty-point victory in 2014 in a district where Mitt Romney narrowly defeated President Obama, but will face a tough race against either Rubio or a wide bench of statewide Republican officials led by state CFO Jeff Atwater. He may also have to face a primary challenge from the left in firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson. But given that Murphy entered Congress by defeating Rep. Allen West, he may be more adept at countering Grayson’s campaigning style than most.

Published by JP Meredith

John Meredith is a contributor to The Politic from New York, NY. Contact him at john.meredith@yale.edu.

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