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WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles E. Schumer shipped $500,000 to Nevada in recent weeks to help Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and Schumer’s political patron and close friend, as he fights for his political life in Nevada.

At the same time Schumer, a New York Democrat, made out a smaller check, for $20,000, to the Democratic Party in Vermont, where the gift earned him the good will of Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, even though Leahy is not believed to be in any serious re-election jeopardy.

“Senator Leahy takes no election for granted and is grateful for Senator Schumer’s support,” said Carolyn Dwyer, campaign manager for Leahy.

The two donations underscore the excruciatingly delicate position Schumer finds himself in. He is doing everything he can to help his friend Reid fend off a challenge from the Tea Party candidate, Sharron Angle, and prevent the embarrassing ouster of the party leader.

Yet given his own deep political ambitions and drive, Schumer is also very carefully laying the groundwork to move on a moment’s notice to try to secure the top Democratic job if Reid is defeated Tuesday.

The situation for Schumer is further complicated by his partner in the Senate leadership and Capitol Hill housemate, Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, also positioning himself in the underground campaign to replace Reid, although both men have made it clear they would greatly prefer that Reid return. The senators and their aides declined to comment for this article.

Schumer, one of the party’s most prolific fundraisers, has distributed $4 million from his own campaign coffers to the party and his colleagues this election cycle, including the $500,000 turned over to the Nevada Democratic Party to help Reid.