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Clinton weighs VP choices over chances in the Senate

Lisa Lerer
Associated Press

Washington — As Hillary Clinton considers her choices for vice president, she’s seriously weighing the potential negative impact her decision could have on Democratic efforts to retake control of the Senate, according to party members familiar with her thinking.

She’s also said to be worried about how her pick could affect congressional elections in 2018, at the midpoint of her presidency should she win the White House. Her political calculus underscores how closely linked she believes her success as president would be to having her party in power on Capitol Hill.

Clinton’s concerns center on senators whose seats would be filled by a Republican governor if they move into the White House — including Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Examined by Clinton’s vetting team in an early stage of the vice presidential process, it’s unclear whether they have been moved onto her short list.

The Democrats familiar with Clinton’s thinking all spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to publicly discuss her search for a running mate.

Clinton’s team is moving through the selection process quickly. Lawyers have already requested documents and questionnaire replies from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro of Texas. Interviews with Clinton will be scheduled for early next month.

Top Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who will succeed the retiring Reid next year, and Sen. Jon Tester, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have expressed concerns about Clinton’s vice presidential pick complicating their efforts to retake the majority.

Democrats need to gain four seats in November to win control of the chamber if Clinton is president.

“If we have a Republican governor in any of those states, the answer is not only no, but hell no,” Reid said last month. “I would do whatever I can, and I think most of my Democratic colleagues would say the same thing.”

Clinton has made rebuilding state Democratic parties a key theme of her presidential run.

Democrats have a narrow but plausible path for retaking the Senate in November. Several seats are being contested in Democratic-leaning states, including Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Democrats are also hoping that if Clinton carries battlegrounds like Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire, the party could pick up Senate seats there as well.