Sen. Chuck Schumer is up for re-election this year, but that's not why he's becoming a focus of attention. His New York seat is safe.
If enough other Democrats win, however, Schumer stands to become the next Senate majority leader. To make that happen, Democrats need a net gain of five Senate seats. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, allowing her vice president to break ties in the Senate, Schumer needs only four.
Even as a politician with sharp instincts, he would face steep challenges in overcoming the gridlock that has largely paralyzed the capital. In any event, the Senate will be closely divided along partisan lines, and Republicans remain favored to retain control of the House.
Schumer said down near Wall Street over bagels with me to discuss an array of issues: his constituent Donald Trump, his former Senate colleague Clinton, how he'll differ from outgoing Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid, prospects for legislative progress in the post-election lame-duck congressional session and beyond. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.
HARWOOD: You've known Donald Trump for a long time. He's been a donor of yours. Is this the person that you have always known or has something surprised you?
SCHUMER: Yes, but what's surprised me is more so. Everyone knew he had a big ego. Everyone knew that he would just sort of like to talk about himself. But the extreme of it surprised me.