Sunday, October 25, 2009

Harry Reid: On the Ropes?

It's shaping up to be an interesting political season in Nevada.

In a bylined story in the Las Vegas Sun, Sun Washington
Bureau correspondent Lisa Mascaro believes that the
conventional wisdom on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's
election campaign may not hold up.

The "conventional wisdom" on Reid's chances runs something
like this:

- Reid will have enough of a war chest to almost guarantee
a victory;

- A cluttered Republican field of unknowns will beat each
other up in the June primary, leaving an exhausted novice
candidate facing a prepared and rested Reid in the general

- National Republican operatives' hopes of making this
a replay of the John Thune-Tom Daschle battle in 2004
(which cost Daschle his seat and the Majority leadership),
may not pan out this time;

- Recent demographic changes in Nevada have changed the
state from majority-Republican to majority Democratic,
with a 100,00+ Democratic edge. In 2008, the state went to
Obama by 13 percentage points, and Democratic State Senator
Dina Titus beat three-term Republican incumbent Jon Porter
in a conservative suburban Las Vegas district.

And there's a lot of logic behind this.

First of all, when it comes to fund raising, Harry Reid is
no slouch. The $8.7 million he raised in just the last quarter
would be the largest sum ever spent by a Senate candidate in
the state's history. And he intends to have $25 million on hand
by the general election. And, as predicted, the declared
Republican candidates are for the most part relative

But to this observer, that's where the conventional
wisdom ends.

According to both the Sun and Jennifer Duffy of the
Cook Political
Report, Reid is in for a tougher fight than
almost anyone imagines. His poll numbers are lower at this
point than in any of his previous contests. And the national
mood is starting to trend away from Democrats, as voters
perceive the Democratic Congress and White House as unable to
deliver on health care reform or economic recovery.

And there's more yet.

According to Duffy, Reid's war chest may not be the advantage it's
cracked up to be. To overcome his low polling numbers, Reid is
starting his commercial effort a full thirteen months early -
to "reintroduce himself" to Nevada voters. And an
incumbent who has to "reintroduce himself" to his constituents
isn't running from a position of strength - even though Reid
vows to "vaporize" anyRepublican in the general election.
Duffy estimates that a Republican with a $6-8 million war
chest may be competitive in Nevada's relatively inexpensive
media markets.

The other Reid "problem" is that The Nevada Republican Party
shows signs of coalescing around one of two relatively
attractive candidates - either Nevada Republican Party Chair
Sue Lowden (a former State Senate Majority Leader), or
Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian, son of
well-known former UNLV basketball coach Jerry

In early polling, Reid trails Lowden by ten points and
Tarkanian by six among likely voters.

These are not numbers a nationally prominent
incumbent wants to hear.

And if these numbers hold up, A Nevada replay of the
Thune-Daschle battle might become more likely. John
Thune was a former Congressman who had narrowly lost
a Senate bid two years previously, and who won against
a nationally prominent incumbent widely perceived as
being "out of touch" with the home folks. And to many
Nevadans, "out of touch" accurately describes Harry

Nevada has severe problems - an unemployment rate
second only to Michigan's, a huge home foreclosure
problem, and an undiversified economy excessively
dependent on the troubled gaming and residential
construction industries. And Harry Reid, rightly or wrongly,
is perceived as having done almost nothing about any of this.
Even his one noticeable accomplishment, the blocking of
the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, is being re-considered
by voters in a state desperate for stable, high-wage, high-skill

But the biggest problem Reid has, in my opinion, is the steady
erosion of liberal and progressive support. On health care,
Reid has never been enthusiastic about the Public Option.
He has been very quiet about banking, financial, or foreclosure
reform. In a unionized state, he has been opposed to card check.
And with tens of thousands of unemployed Nevadans scheduled
to exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of the year,
he has been unable to get a benefit extension through the Senate
with a 60-vote majority.

Small wonder that many progressives feel that their best bet
might be to sit this one out and take their chances against
scandal-scarred John Ensign, Reid's Republican Senate
colleague, in 2012.

And large-scale liberal and progressive defection would
make Reid's task enormously difficult and the Republicans'
much easier. Nevada liberals and Democrats are largely
clustered in Las Vegas, among minorities and unionized
government and construction workers and casino employees.
The rest of the state is white, rural, and very conservative.
A plausible Republican strategy therefore might be to battle
Reid to a draw in Clark County (Las Vegas), and win the rest
of the state, which normally votes lopsidedly Republican.

If that happens, the former boxer gets off the ropes - and goes
down for the count.

And for progressives, that may not be entirely a bad thing. Good
as Harry Reid was in partisan opposition to former President
George W. Bush, he has been singularly ineffective in advancing
Obama's agenda with a filibuster-proof majority. And even if Reid
loses, the Democrats are not forecast to lose their majority.
And a more vigorously partisan Majority Leader might even
succeed in installing some badly-needed partisan backbone
where it's most needed - in the White House.

It will make for an interesting election year.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a liberal and I don't like Harry Reid. He doesn't care about either his left flank or average Nevadans. Ugh, the one thing I HATE about people in Nevada is their refusal to do their patriotic duty and allow Yucca to be filled with Glorious American Nuclear Fuel which can be reused exactly the same way the Europeans reuse their nuclear fuel so it may not stay in Yucca forever anyway. By refusing to do what they have to do in one of the few viable places to safely store used nuclear fuel, Nevada is selfish, ignorant, and unpatriotic. Nevada can be compensated with billions in Federal Aid. (or just pork) Really, the rest of the country doesn't care. We need more electricity and we don't even have to have new nuclear plants- we can reopen ones that have been shut down or deactivated. Then the used nuclear fuel can go to Yucca and there is no more problem.

    Contrary to popular opinion, Las Vegas is weathering the recession because most of their well-known casinos have managed to stay open and new resorts open frequently! A new massive city park development promises thousands of new jobs for Las Vegas Nevadans. Things are getting better in Nevada, but Harry Reid is missing in action on nearly every important issue and he is trapped in the pointless inside the beltway nonsense, but he chose to be trapped due to his position as Majority Leader and his two decades in the Senate.

    Harry Reid has few viable options if he doesn't move sharply to the left. Harry Reid needs to borrow a pair of balls and use them well- I recommend Alan Grayson's.