Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) may be popular among constituents in the San Fernando Valley but the same can't be said regarding his colleagues on Capitol Hill, especially on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and in the Democratic leadership.
He'd never win a popularity contest there and that only got worse in the wake of his bitter campaign in November against the committee's popular ranking Democrat, Howard Berman. Redistricting forced the two Democrats to face off in a newly redrawn district that favored Sherman, and with rare exception House and Senate colleagues plus the state Democratic leadership strongly endorsed Berman.
Sherman had counted on his seniority and knocking off Berman to make him the top Democrat on the committee but his colleagues instead elevated the next in line, Eliot Engel (New York). So he decided to settle for top Democrat on the subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.
"I'll be ranking member," he confidently announced only hours before the caucus vote. But it was not to be. Rep. Ted Deutch (Florida) was chosen, and Sherman had to settle for retaining his post as ranking member of the terrorism and nonproliferation subcommittee.
Committee insiders, who would not speak for attribution because they have to work with Sherman, said many of his colleagues are turned off by what they consider his overly aggressive style and strident attacks on the Obama administration for not being hard enough on Iran.
Engel may not have Berman's foreign policy chops but he is personable and well liked and "members grow into their positions," said the insiders. He should have little trouble expanding his focus on Israel and Iran and his moniker "Elliot of the Bronx" to represent the Democratic caucus. He hasn't been tested yet.
But it seems Sherman has been tested and found wanting. "People really don't like him. They didn't like him before and more so now. He is very isolated in the caucus, not taken very seriously and has few friends on the committee," I was told.
All three lawmakers -- Engel, Sherman and Deutch --are staunch supporters of Israel and outspoken in their calls for tough sanctions on Iran to force it to abandon its nuclear ambitions, although their styles may differ.
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