Larry Kudlow is seriously considering a move to another network - from CNBC to C-SPAN.
The former Wall Street executive and Reagan administration economist, who preaches daily about fiscal conservatism and supply-side economics on the cable financial network, is being urged by a grass-roots group to run for the Senate in November.
His target: two-term Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat, in a heavyweight matchup that could prove to be the most entertaining and caustic race of the year.
Mr. Kudlow last year dismissed a similar draft movement to run against Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd in neighboring Connecticut. But the rising poll numbers for Republicans this year and the prospect of taking down one of the Senate's top Democrats has Mr. Kudlow rethinking his reluctance. The independent, Internet-based "Draft Kudlow Committee" has jumped in to help collect money and gather supporters - and pressure the TV host to make a run.
"As one of the architects of the Reagan tax cuts that sparked one of the greatest economic booms in modern times, he is recognized as a leading anti-tax, supply-side economist," according to the Web site draftkudlow.com, which shows the TV host in his trademark white, collared shirt.
"New York deserves a better senator than Chuck Schumer - far, far better. Help us convince Larry Kudlow to enter the Senate race," the site says.
Mr. Kudlow is playing it coy, but he is clearly entertaining the idea of jumping into the race.
"I'm very honored to be considered, and I'm going to give all this careful attention," he said late last month in a radio interview. "I do believe that retiring Sen. Schumer would be a noble cause." His office said Thursday that he would not comment on whether he plans to enter the race.
Mr. Kudlow recently dined with New York State Conservative Party leader Mike Long and state Republican Party chief Ed Cox, according to the New York Post.
Last week, the Conservative Party's executive committee, by unanimous vote, passed a resolution urging the economist to run for Mr. Schumer's seat.
"Senator Schumer is out of touch with New Yorkers. His vision of big government is wrong and is being rejected by the people who are forced to pay for his big-government programs," the committee said in a statement. "Larry Kudlow has been the voice of fiscal sanity on CNBC, and it is now time for him to be our voice in Washington, D.C."
Mr. Kudlow's name recognition and Wall Street contacts could make him a formidable challenger.
"A Kudlow challenge would force Mr. Schumer to defend not merely the greasy deal-making he's abetted in Washington, but the ruinous economic calculus of the policies his deals are meant to prop up," Michael Knox Beran, a contributing editor to the New York-based City Journal, wrote in a recent blog posting at National Review Online. "It would be a fascinating - and enlightening - spectacle."
Mr. Kudlow, 62, would face an uphill battle against Mr. Schumer, 59. The Democrat already has more than $19 million in his campaign coffers - the most of any Senate candidate this year. Mr. Schumer crushed his opponent in his last election in 2004, defeating former state Assemblyman Howard Mills by 71 percent to 24 percent, the widest margin in New York history.
Still, Mr. Schumer - who sits on the Senate's finance and banking committees - is suddenly flagging in the polls. A statewide poll this month by the Marist organization found that his once rock-solid approval rating has taken a slide.
"For the first time in nearly nine years, Mr. Schumer's approval rating has fallen below 50 percent. Holding steady at 58 percent just last September, his approval rating is now 47 percent and has plummeted in New York City, down to 51 percent from 66 percent in September.
"Senator Schumer is not immune from the anti-incumbent sentiment among voters, but it would take a major effort to unseat him," said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
The Draft Kudlow Committee, citing the surprise victory of Republican Scott Brown in last month's special Senate election in liberal Massachusetts, argues that New York is much more in play this November.
"Until Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate by the growing group of independents in normally loopy liberal Massachusetts, nobody thought it was possible to beat Schumer. Now the game has changed," according to the Web site.
The fact that Mr. Kudlow is being wooed shows just how thin the Republican bench is in New York. The state's other U.S. senator, freshman Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, is also up for re-election in November, with popular former Gov. George E. Pataki among the potential Republican candidates in that race. With Mrs. Gillibrand considered vulnerable, more party money will likely be spent in that race, which could affect the cash flow for any Republican running against Mr. Schumer.
That alone may make it worthwhile for Republicans to try to make a strong run to knock out Mr. Schumer, said Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio.
"If he's got another easy race, he can raise money all over the country, start dishing out campaign contributions so he can be the majority leader. If you can tie him down, you're taking him out of the game," Mr. Muzzio said.
While Mr. Schumer's poll numbers suggest some weakness, the Marist survey also found that Mr. Kudlow faces considerable odds if he makes the leap.
If the race were held today, the pollster said, "67 percent of registered voters statewide would support Schumer, while 25 percent would cast their ballot for the Republican challenger, Kudlow."
Then again, Mr. Brown - a virtual unknown - trailed his Democratic opponent in Massachusetts by more than 30 percentage points at one time in the race before surging to victory.
But Mr. Muzzio said the Republicans will have to field a strong candidate, or Mr. Schumer "will beat them to death."
"This guy is relentless. Schumer is Muhammad Ali against a couple of local gym fighters," Mr. Muzzio said. "I would not run against Chuck Schumer unless I had some kind of masochistic complex."
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