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N.Y.: Schumer More Effective Than Clinton, Voters Say

Although they both deny it, New York's two senators -- Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer -- have something of a rivalry.

Schumer came to the Senate in 1998 as a rising star but was eclipsed just two years later by Clinton, the former First Lady who immediately became the best-known Democrat in the Senate -- sucking the media oxygen from the press-friendly Schumer.

Over the ensuing six years, the two politicians have done their best to downplay -- and even satirize -- their rivalry. But beneath the laughs there is clearly a competitive streak.

Take for example the commencement speech by Clinton last month at Buffalo State College. Although he was not on the schedule to speak, Schumer showed up and offered introductory remarks before ceding the floor to Clinton. (The New York Times's Anne Kornblut noted this latest incarnation of the rivalry in a story last month, which, unfortunately, is behind the paid's subscription wall.)

Whether the rivalry between the two principals is real or imagined, there's little doubt that the staffs on both sides are constantly monitoring the polls for evidence that their boss is the more popular or effective.

A poll released today by the Siena Research Institute should provide considerable rhetorical fodder in this ongoing debate. Asked who was the more effective of the state's two senators, 44 percent of the sample chose Schumer while 22 percent said Clinton. Another 22 percent said the two were equally effective and 12 percent didn't know or had no opinion. (In 2004, a similar poll conducted by Zogby showed a more narrow margin, with 36 percent saying Schumer was more effective while 30 percent said Clinton was.)

Given the strong negative feelings that Clinton evokes among Republicans, it's not surprising that just 17 percent of GOP respondents in the Siena poll said she was the more effective senator, compared with 53 percent who chose Schumer. The numbers were much more even among Democrats, with 35 percent choosing Schumer, 28 percent siding with Clinton and 30 percent splitting the difference. (For a full demographic breakout of the Siena poll, click here.)

The rivalry between Clinton and Schumer is the highest-profile intra-state one in the Senate, it is far from the only one. Nebraska Sens. Chuck Hagel (R) and Ben Nelson (D) make no secret of their distaste for one another, while Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) and Ted Kennedy (D) were long seen as rivals before the former's 2004 presidential campaign.

The most famous Senate rivalry in recent memory was between New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D) and Robert Torricelli (D). During one famed incident, Torricelli threatened to cut off Lautenberg's genitals; Lautenberg got the last laugh, however, as he took Torricelli's seat when the incumbent was forced to step aside amid poll numbers that showed he couldn't win reelection in 2002.

Are there other in-state Senate rivalries -- either current or past -- that we're missing? Post in the comments section.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 21, 2006; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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I think you misread the Schumer aggressiveness, with the media and otherwise. He was always that way, through 18 years in the House, since before the current junior senator was the first lady of Arkansas. And he famously races around the state to dozens of graduations every year. Schumer is just being his hyperactive self; don't pin it on the rivalry (too much).

And "historycorrector," while the line is indeed thought to originate with O'Neill about Solarz, it is recycled on Capitol Hill all the time in reference to various politicians. Bob Dole definitely used the line on Schumer once in the early 1990s.

Posted by: Another New Yorker | June 23, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

As a native New Yorker, I've always liked Schumer more than Hillary (who, it should be pointed out, got fewer New York votes than Gore in 2000... I am surprised that this fact doesn't get mentioned more often when it comes to her presidential viability).

Posted by: Lydia | June 22, 2006 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Frederik, thank you for your reply.

Yeah, that's what I read somewhere, too and that along with Sen. Hagel's body language appearing angry when he sees Sen. Nelson on the floor, strikes me as odd. It just seems so personal with Sen. Hagel that I just don't get it. I mean politicians don't normally take these campaigns so personally. I mean does he feel like he should never have an opponent from the other party or is there something he didn't like about how Sen. Nelson conducted his campaign?

Posted by: Jason | June 22, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Schumer has served in the House of Representative for several terms and has had more time to build friendships, networks and resources. He should be more effective. Too bad you don't have an objective measure of "effectiveness" and use it to measure all in Congress. Besides, what does "effectiveness" look like in a Republican controlled Senate?

Posted by: Alberto | June 22, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse


the rivalry between Hagel and Nelson started in 1996 when both vied for the then open US senate seat. Hagel won, then governor Nelson lost the general election.

Nelson used to say that he got over losing but Hagel never got over winning.

Posted by: Frederik | June 22, 2006 6:01 AM | Report abuse

What's with all the intrastate, intraparties rivalries? Does anyone have any insight into what common factors might cause them?

By the way, I don't believe Kennedy and Kerry compete at all. Kennedy lent the guy his chief of staff to run his campaign. And besides, they occupy different niches: Kennedy is known for his liberal domestic policies, while Kerry has an interest in foreign policy.

Posted by: Jeff | June 21, 2006 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Intra-party Senatorial feuds might be more relevant that D vs. R feuds within the same state, and if that's the measure, then the Murray-Cantwell catfight in Washington is defintely right up there. '04 and '06 were election years for each and yet they could still hardly stump for each other. On most of the issues they both champion, like the environment and womens issues, they are clawing over each other for recognition. For example, the Clinton-Murray hold on an FDA nomination over plan B approval, and the Cantwell ANWR opposition. In each case the other was nowhere to be seen.
I bet that looking up cosponsorhip rates and cross-contributions will confirm this.

Posted by: anon-y-mouse | June 21, 2006 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Another nasty feud was between Oregon's Wayne Morse and Richard Neuberger in the 1950's. It ended when Neuberger was diagnosed with cancer and died before his term ended. Also, Hatfield and Packwood didn't exactly get along either. I understand that the bad feelings started when Packwood was a student at Willamette University and Hatfield was a faculty member.

Posted by: Carson City | June 21, 2006 7:20 PM | Report abuse

How are Kennedy and Kerry rivals? Aren't they close friends? Kennedy was Kerry's shephard when he first ran for Congress, and Kennedy recently said he will support Kerry again in 2008 without hesitation. If anyone knows more, please post.

Posted by: J. | June 21, 2006 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Robert Kennedy and Jacob Javits has an intense rivalry initially in New York. But RFK eventually earned Javits respect as they both were champions of civil rights.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | June 21, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Landrieu and Vitter have been known to snipe at one another. Vitter has been known to snipe at a lot of people, including former La. Gov. Mike Foster, a fellow Republican, as well as many members of the legislature when Vitter was there.

Posted by: Louisianaboy | June 21, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone have any insight into the Sen. Hagel and Sen. Nelson feud? It seems to me Sen. Hagel hates Sen. Nelson more than San Francisco hates Los Angeles! Anyone know why?

Posted by: Jason | June 21, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

There is a myth growing that it was once said that "the most dangerous place on Capitol Hill was between Chuck Schumer and a television camera." That statement, in another form, was famously said about then Rep. Steven Solarz (D-N.Y.) by House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O-Neill. (And talk about a rivalry -- just remember Schumer-Solarz in the 1980s).

What was said about Schumer, by Speaker O'Neill's chief of staff, Chris Matthews, was that "Schumer was to the press what a moth is to a candle." How true, still.

Posted by: Historycorrector | June 21, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Dear Chris,
If the numbers are true in friendly New York, it might just be Mrs. Clinton should abandon her presidental aspirations and work on being a great senator from New York.

Posted by: sandy | June 21, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Andy R, in answer to your query about states whose senators get along well . . . Illinois' Dick Durbin and Barack Obama get along great. Hawaii's two Daniels (Inouye and Akaka) seem to get along well, too . . . as do Michigan's Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow . . . and the moderate "ideological twins" from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins . . . and Connecticut's pair of anachronistic fuddy-duddys, Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutcherson of Texas don't seem to have any rancor between them. Those are the ones I can think of . . .

Posted by: The Caped Composer | June 21, 2006 4:01 PM | Report abuse

What about Landrieu and Vitter? I recall them doing some serious sniping at each other.

Posted by: Joe | June 21, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I recall them doing some serious sniping at each other.

Posted by: What about Landrieu and Vitter? | June 21, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Although they've made peace, nevada's Ensign and reid had a big rivalry. See 1998 where Reid beat him by a 40o or so votes

Posted by: Alex | June 21, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

That is probably because Allen is a dumb do-nothing opportunist!

I would imagine with the egos some of these folks have that alot of them have some sort of beef with their counterpart. Also does anyone know about states that have Senators that get along real well?

Posted by: Andy R | June 21, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

John Warner and George Allen, Senators from Virginia, don't get along either. It's pretty well-known that John Warner thinks Allen is a dumb, do-nothing opportunist who's still riding on the coattails of his father's fame.

Posted by: Johnson | June 21, 2006 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Lott and Cochran's distaste go back to their time at Ole Miss, where both were cheerleaders for the Rebels. Many say it goes back to differing fraternaties, Cochran being a Pi Kappa Alpha and Lott a Sigma Nu. Also, Lott defeated Cochran for the Majority Leader's post when Dole resigned to campaign for President in 1996.
However, for them not to like one another they have worked well together always putting Mississippi first, especially since Katrina.

Posted by: magnolia | June 21, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Shumer has the political ability to go stongly negative and indeed, he does. (He could make a Republican cure for cancer sound like a right wing plot to deprive New York doctors of income.) If Hillary goes negative, it will increase the "I told you so" factor that the Republicans can use right up to election day.

Posted by: Truth B Told | June 21, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Specter and Santorum. Although Specter said 'Thre relection of Sen. Santorum is my number one priority' this year, the two have clashed in big ways. The most high-profile case of this was during the debate on stem-cell research. Specter, bald from chemotherapy treatment, held up an hourglass at one point, asking how much time he and other Hodgkins Disease patients had. Yet, Santorum would not buck and continued to press the issue that 'destroying life' to sustain life was not acceptable.
On the other hand, Specter said that he could not have won the Republican primary in 2004 if Santorum had not come to his aide. Likewise, Specter will help Santorum in the fight for Santorum's political life this year. As dully noted by TheFix, Santorum is this year's most vulerable incumbent.
While many would say that the two publicly show a 'we friendly disagree with each other' sentiment, and have a can't-win-without-you commrodory, I would say it's not much of a stretch to believe that, privately, they have some axes to grind.

Posted by: Dan | June 21, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Feinstein-Boxer.

Posted by: Raul | June 21, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

In Missouri, Senators Bond and Talent compete for the title, "Karl Rove's Favorite Waterboy". Since Talent is up for re-election, I think he will win the award this year. Bond won it last year for his on-going slime job on Joe Wilson.

Posted by: Kansas City, Mo | June 21, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

How about Boxer/Feinstein? Didn't Boxer endorse Van De Kamp over Feinstein for governor in 1990 calling him the only feminist in the race?

Posted by: Knight | June 21, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse


The senators are "principals," not "principles."

Posted by: peters43 | June 21, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse


In 1970, Howard Metzenbaum defeated John Glenn in the Ohio Democratic primary for Senate, before losing to Robert Taft, Jr. (father of current Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and grandson of President William Howard Taft) in the general election. In 1974, Gov. John Gilligan (father of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius) appointed Metzenbaum to fill the vacant seat of William Saxbe, who had resigned to become U.S. Attorney General. Glenn challenged Metzenbaum in the primary. In one of the nastiest primary campaigns in Ohio history, Glenn narrowly won, and until 1983, when Glenn was campaigning for the presidency, the two could not stand one another.

Posted by: Kevin | June 21, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

To call Sens. Kennedy and Kerry "rivals" flatters Kerry, a lot. Kennedy is the workhorse, Kerry the showhorse. It's been that way since Kerry was elected. If you're from Massachusetts and you want something in Washington, you call Kennedy's office. If you are from somewhere else and want to discuss a legislative solution to some national problem, you call Kennedy's office.

If you want a tall Senator to read a speech, you call Kerry.

Among other state delegations, the highest profile relationship is probably in Mississippi's delegation. Sens. Lott and Cochran share too many interests to be regular rivals, especially since their seats are both safe and neither one is a prospective candidate for national office. But their dislike for one another has never been a secret, and has been a factor in Senate leadership politics in the past.

Posted by: Zathras | June 21, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Survey USA June Approval
Schumer 64% (net + 36% fav)
Clinton 62% (net + 28% fav)

Posted by: RMill | June 21, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I think Chris is slightly off on this. I think this dianamic functions more like an intra-state college rivalry: usually one college (usually the one less-off academically) feels the rivalry is there, while the other school doesn't even knwo it exists.

Similarly Schumer is feeling the pressure more of a "rivalry." Ever since Hillary took office, I have always thought he has had a bit of a complex. He's everywhere on every issue - from the war, to currency issues, to underwater basket-weaving. I've always thought it's been a little over-the-top. I'd be surpised to find people on Hillary's staff who actually feel threatened by this. I think this is an imagined rivalry on one side. After all, they say the most dangerous place on Capitol Hill is between Chuck Schumer's office and a camera.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 21, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

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