The race to be the next Senate Democratic Leader was over before it began.
There are only two Democrats in the Senate who have been viewed as legitimate candidates to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid in the party's top slot: Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York. And before the dust had cleared on the day Reid announced his exit, the field was down to one: Schumer.
"Senator Durbin told Senator Schumer late last night that he wasn't running for Leader, and that Schumer has his support," a Durbin spokesman said Friday afternoon. "Durbin intends to run again for Whip and has Senator Reid's support. He's been speaking with senators this morning."
Reid had already given Schumer his blessing. "I think Schumer should be able to succeed me," the departing leader told The Washington Post Friday morning.
And Schumer, in a press release that already sounded like a victory speech sent out from his office Friday afternoon, declared: "I am honored and humbled to have the support of so many of my colleagues and look forward to our Senate Democratic Caucus continuing to fight for the middle class."
A source close to Schumer said Friday that when the No. 3 Democrat learned of Reid's retirement plans Thursday, the Minority Leader encouraged him to make calls to shore up support among the conference. Despite the budget vote-a-rama on the floor that kept members in the chamber for more than 13 hours on Thursday afternoon into early Friday morning, Schumer spent his downtime on his flip-phone calling around for commitments from fellow Democrats. By mid-day Thursday he had commitments "from the overwhelming majority of the caucus," the source said.