Harry Reid has played a valued role, since taking over for the failed Tom Daschle, but his leadership has become less and less dynamic over the past several years. His debate performance against Sharon Angle was not only uninspiring, but shaky. He failed to communicate with the audience, and came across as a technocrat or bureaucrat, rather than as a strong leader.
This is the problem, in a nutshell. Reid was ok a few years ago, did a reasonable job at first, but has become less and less dynamic over time. His best days may be behind him, or he may simply be overworked. Regardless, there isn't much prospect for an improvement.
What we need now is a strong leader who can battle more effectively with the Republicans, while inspiring the American people's support. We need a new, younger and more dynamic Majority Leader.
The two most likely candidates would be Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin.
Durbin has some of the skills, but he comes across as a bland milquetoast type whenever he addresses the American people. Durbin is tainted by being a part of the top Senate leadership team, with Reid, and Reid's failures are partly due to Durbin. If we shift to Durbin, from Reid, there's not much reason to think there would be a market improvement. Another concern is that Durbin's views may be somewhat out of synch with those of the American mainstream - he comes across as a big city liberal (we are mostly liberals here, but the Dem leader must appeal to a broad spectrum of views in the moderate range, to help re-elect moderate DLC Dems).
Schumer has many advantages over Durbin. Most importantly, Schumer is more dynamic, more feisty, and more effective as a leader. He has excellent public speaking and PR skills. He is not easily snookered, whereas the Durbin/Reid team has been constantly snookered. Schumer is savvy and super-smart. He is exciting. He is progressive, but also a moderate. The only possible concern with him is his east coast "edge," and he may come across as being harsh at times. On the other hand, Americans respect tough. Americans don't like wimpy leaders. So they may take to Schumer's toughness.
If we hope to be able to guide the Dems through tough election cycles in 2012 and 2014, we need our top leader to be extremely gifted at maintaining the Democratic majority in the Senate. Schumer has demonstrated his brilliance at electing and re-electing Democratic Senators (brilliant performances as head of DSCC in 2004 and 2006).
It would be encouraging to see a strong movement to replace Reid with Schumer in the days and weeks ahead. There isn't much time - the movement has to start soon, or we will have two more uninspiring years with a weak and timid majority leader.