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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Chuck Schumer is trying to conduct a band full of aspiring solo artists

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York,

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, accompanied by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), speaks to reporters during a news conference on March 14, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The legislative caucus headed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has spawned no fewer than eight possible presidential candidates — including his junior colleague, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

For Schumer, as minority leader, next year offers another underdog's chance at winning legislative fights and maybe a party majority in the upper house. To the others, it marks a one-of-a-kind chance to become the Democratic dragon slayer of a widely disdained GOP president.

Possible presidential contenders include, for now, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Corey Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is due to decide next month.

After a bit of speculation, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) ruled out a presidential run with the remark: "At least two or three Democrats in the Senate need to stay behind to keep the fight going here!”

The Senate-to-White House path is of course well-paved.

Barack Obama of Illinois was a relative newbie in the chamber when he won his first term as president in 2008, defeating fellow Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Joe Biden joined Obama's ticket from the Senate to become vice president. Republican Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all fell to Donald Trump in their party's 2016 primaries.

When lawmakers run for executive jobs, their legislative records become natural debate fodder.

The Senate Democrats all have opposed the GOP's Obamacare repeal, sweeping tax bills and Supreme Court appointments.

But they also differed on legislation and nominations.

As highlighted by the liberal Huffington Post, Harris was the only one of the group to vote against a deal that would have fully funded Trump’s border wall in exchange for permanent protections for so-called Dreamers. Booker opposed a reserve fund for cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. Sanders opposed a measure tightening sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Only Gillibrand and Warren have called for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

From the group, John Kelly won "yes" votes from Sanders, Brown and Klobuchar when he was nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly later served Trump's chief of staff for a year and a half.

For a lawmaker chasing executive office, attendance at the day job suffers to some degree. 

Perhaps Democrats in the scrum will fret about defending their records less than they otherwise might. After all, they are vying to face a president whose postures vary by the day or week and whose own management, leadership and work habits are in serious doubt.

The "out" party's primary will offer a competition to see who appears most likely to unseat Trump. 

Schumer is staying neutral, at least for the time being. After Gillibrand announced for president last month, Schumer said: “Let’s get a lot of people out there and see who the best candidate to beat Donald Trump is. I don’t know who that is right now."

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