Reid, who worked with Daschle in luring Jeffords away from the Republicans in 2001, would not speculate on whether McCain might now be tempted away from the GOP. The current Democratic Senate leadership, led by Senator Charles Schumer of New York, “doesn’t need Harry Reid to tell them what to do,” he said. (A spokesman for Schumer said Saturday the senator had no comment on any possible campaign to recruit Republicans away from the GOP. Spokesmen for McCain did not immediately reply to requests for comment this weekend.)

But a sitting Democratic senator, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting Schumer on such a sensitive issue, said, “I’m just certain Chuck is already thinking about this – reaching out to McCain and Collins and Murkowski and others and asking if they really want to stand with the GOP. Do they really want to call themselves Republicans at a time when a Republican President and the party’s leaders in Congress are doing such damage to the party – and to the country?”