Democratic strategist: don’t bet against Harry Reid
A top Democratic strategist has a tip for political gamblers: Don’t bet against Harry Reid.
Polls show the embattled Senate majority leader in jeopardy of being rejected by voters in his home state of Nevada for a fifth, six-year term. But Robert Menendez, the Senate Democratic campaign chief, said he expects Reid to pull through next year.
“I’m convinced that Harry Reid will win,” Menendez told reporters on Tuesday at the headquarters for the Senate Democratic campaign committee. “I would not bet against Harry Reid.”
He praised Reid for protecting Nevada against becoming the site for a proposed nuclear waste dump and helping stimulate its economy with new jobs.
Yet polls show the often outspoken and combative Reid less than loved by many constituents.
In fact, a Rasmussen survey released in mid-September found Reid trailing two potential Republican challengers by 10 percentage points and 7 percentage points, respectively.
Reid’s numbers have conjured up memories of Democrat Tom Daschle, who in 2004 became the first Senate leader in a half century to be voted out of office.
Republicans made Daschle their top congressional target that year, branding the South Dakotan “chief obstructionist” to then-President George W. Bush’s conservative agenda.
“Harry Reid is not Tom Daschle, and this (Nevada) is not South Dakota,” said Menendez, noting that registered Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans in Nevada. South Dakota is a traditionally Republican state.
Overall, 38 Senate seats are up for election next year — 19 now held by Republicans, 19 by Democrats. The November 2010 election is 14 months away, which Menendez called “an eternity in politics.”
Yet he acknowledged Senate Democrats face a challenging environment in trying to retain their 60-vote majority in the 100-member chamber, their biggest in decades.
Menendez said Republicans seem to be betting against the U.S. economy rebounding and Democrats enacting healthcare reform. The campaign chief said he expects the Republican strategy to backfire.
But Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said she expects Senate Democrats to lose their 60-vote majority though retain control of the chamber.
According to Duffy, betting against Reid might be a pretty good bet. She lists his race as a “tossup.”
Photo Credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Reid walks out of West Wing after meeting with President Obama)