Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Sun Expanded Coverage
- This time, rural Nevada isn't looking so red on its face (8-24-2008)
- Reid: Obama doesn't need cowboy hat, boots (8-21-2008)
On any given day in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a popular man.
Reporters swarm him, surrounding his small frame and holding recorders high to capture his comments. They walk with him until the last possible moment, stopping only when he steps behind the door to his office or onto the Senate floor, places off-limits to journalists.
Those moments are likely to be few in Denver.
Denver apparently marks the beginning of a new Reid era, his slow return to a behind-the-scenes role as Congress’ consummate deal maker.
Reid’s first appearance at the convention was by video opening night. He won’t get to the convention until today and he likely won’t be heard from again until a news conference Wednesday, followed by a prime-time speech that evening.
Reid ascended to national attention when he became majority leader following the 2006 election, which put Democrats in control of Congress. With the White House in Republican hands, Reid became the nation’s top Democrat. He often said he would continue in that role until the party chose its presidential nominee — as it does this week.
Reid has shown little desire to assert himself here beyond his prime-time speaking slot, a news conference and his few fundraisers. No hosting of flashy parties, no mastering of ceremonies.
As always, he doesn’t seem to mind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ability to capture more attention.
Reid’s office said the majority leader has all the attention he wants. “His profile is pretty high,” spokesman Jon Summers said.
Here is something else to consider. As Reid prepares for his reelection bid in 2010, the lower profile could help cool his image back home, as the National Journal suggested over the weekend.
As top Democrat, Reid was decidedly partisan in 2007 and his approval rating in Nevada dipped to 32 percent in October, according to a poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It hadclimbed back to 46 percent in the latest poll.
Reid’s focus this week is on helping Democratic hopeful Barack Obama win in Nevada and other Western states that could decide the election.
His talk Wednesday will be on energy, an issue dear to Nevada. The state is trying to decide whether to allow construction of more coal-fired power plants. It also continues to oppose creation of a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain — a plan Obama opposes but Republican candidate John McCain supports.
Aside from that, Reid appears content to recede and let this week belong to Obama. He knows he will continue to face attacks as Republicans seek to dislodge him in 2010 in what would be an enormous political trophy.
Perhaps he is becoming the new old Reid, doing what he does in his quiet way, out of the range of so many arrows.