Thursday, December 11, 2008

Smith Survival Shaky?

In today's Crain's Insider, there's speculation that Malcolm Smith may be dead man walking: "Sen. Malcolm Smith’s days as Democratic leader appear to be numbered—not because his deal with dissident Democrats fell apart, but because he made it in the first place. “Malcolm Smith is mortally wounded,” one Democrat says. “He cannot lead this conference. He is going to have to be replaced.”

The central issue-as the dissidents themselves underscored-is trust: "Smith announced yesterday morning that he was pulling out of the agreement with the so-called Gang of Three. But the trio of Sens. Carl Kruger and Ruben Díaz Sr. and Sen.-elect Pedro Espada had already realized that they could not trust Smith, insiders say. “I don’t blame them,” the source says."

The trust has apparently been eroded all over the conference: "At a meeting Saturday, he told them that he had not firmly committed to the deal, and that he could undercut the powers he gave the three rogue senators after the vote to make him leader of the Senate. That left the impression that Smith was untrustworthy, further undermining his support."

The problem, as Crain's points out, is that there is no heir apparent-and with such a slim majority it's difficult to cobble the 32 votes needed to become leader; all of which opens up the possibility for a bipartisan leadership arrangement. Finding the leader in this fiasco will be some challenge. As they say on the Price is Right, "Come on down."