Politics & Policy

The Happiest Man in Nevada

Harry Reid eyes the Senate Minority Leader spot.

Right now, Harry Reid is the happiest man in Nevada. He can’t wait for tonight. It’s killing him. He wants it like a seven-year-old wants Christmas Day. Seven-year-olds dream of toys they desperately long for–but wizened politicians dream of power, and that’s what’s making Harry Reid’s heart pulse.

I have no doubt in my mind that his staff–visions of their new offices and elevated status dancing in their heads–have located the South Dakota Secretary of State’s election-results homepage and are eagerly awaiting the results.

And, when those results come in tonight–when Tom Daschle goes down to defeat in South Dakota–Harry Reid will have already received calls from Democratic power brokers across the nation and, more specifically, from the Senate.

They will be calling about Reid’s new position as Senate Minority Leader.

In fact, I’m sure Reid has received several calls already. These Democrats are not stupid. Daschle has polled under 50 percent in the last three non-partisan statewide polls in South Dakota. In the last two polls, Daschle was actually trailing Republican John Thune by three points–49 percent for Thune vs. 46 percent for Daschle. Incumbents under 50 percent in the late polls almost always lose. The undecideds break against them. Incumbents a) under 50 percent and b) actually trailing challengers in the polls are almost certain losers. Senate Democrats have seen these polls. They panicked! The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent a fresh round of negative ads Thune’s way, and they flew out as many last-minute volunteers as they could. But it won’t work: Tom Daschle, meet Jim Sasser. D.C. Democrats know Daschle’s time is over, and they won’t wait until the wake to fight over the silver and the china.

Sure, Reid will mouth some half-hearted lament about Daschle’s defeat. He will probably laud Daschle’s courageous stands on the issues, or compliment Tom’s great political courage. But Daschle’s career will be over, and the Democratic machine (with the exceptions of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and David Kranz) won’t waste too much time mourning his loss.

Ironically, if Reid becomes Minority Leader, he will face many of the same problems Daschle faced in South Dakota. For example, coming from Nevada, Reid will have to manage a blue-tinged Senate minority as a senator from a nominally red state. As a theoretically pro-life Mormon, Reid will have to labor long and hard to rationalize the moral back flips he will have to perform in his new role. But I’m sure he’ll be able to pull it off; he can get tips on that from Dick Gephardt.

In any event, it should make for good political theater. With Senate Republicans likely to pick up a net of between two and four seats this cycle–and a possible Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) defection in anticipation of his 2006 reelection effort–Harry Reid will not have one of the easier jobs on Capitol Hill.

Robert Moran is a vice president at the Republican polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates. He is an NRO contributor.

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