On Friday, Senate Democrats announced that Maryland Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen will chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the next election cycle.
Van Hollen, who has been a congressman since he was elected in 2002, beat Rep. Donna Edwards in an April primary setting him up for an easy win in November. While it is unusual for a freshman Senator to be picked to chair the DSCC, at first blush the appointment may seem like a terrible hazing prank for a freshman Senator, this particular freshman Senator comes with important political experience having chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the committee that manages the races in the House of Representatives — for four years.
The incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Van Hollen as “our first choice.”
“The map is tough for Democrats, but I have no doubt that Sen.-elect Van Hollen is up to the task,” Schumer said in a statement.
“Democrats in the Senate are the last like of defense between President-elect Trump and Washington Republicans, and so many of the values and priorities that Americans hold dear,” Van Hollen said. He added that he will be taking over retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski’s seat on the Appropriations Committee.
Aside from the fact that they traditionally have a tougher time than Republicans in getting out their votes during midterm elections, Democrats have a daunting map for the upcoming midterm election, as they will be defending 25 Senate seats compared to the Republicans who are only defending 8. To make matters worse, only one of those Democratic seats is in a state that Hillary Clinton won. Many of the remaining 24 are in states which Trump comfortably won like Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia, as well as some within what was prior to this election known as ‘the blue wall,’ such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
While Van Hollen has significant experience in the DCCC, it is not all ‘good’ experience. After all, he was at the helm in 2010 when Democrats lost a historic 63 seats, the most by either party since 1938. Considering the upcoming Senate map and the disastrous results in the House, this sounds to some like an exercise in stupidity by Democrats — doing the same thing and expecting a different result. At the same time, Senate races are statewide making them vastly different than House races which are so dominated by local politics and gerrymandered districts.
Whether the freshman Senator is ultimately the right choice will only be determined in November, 2018 when the results of that election are announced.