Published Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 | 5:40 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 | 11:20 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In Washington, President Barack Obama often looks to Harry Reid to promote and defend his policies against his political rivals.
In Charlotte, Reid assumed the same role as he addressed the Democratic National Convention on its opening night with a simple, repeated message about the president’s first term: “President Obama made the tough — and right — call.”
Reid stood against screens projecting a backdrop of red, rocky Nevada mountains as he rattled off the politically difficult decisions Obama had to make as president, answering each with his approving refrain.
“Some said he shouldn't save Detroit.”
“Some said he shouldn't move heaven and earth to get bin Laden.”
“Some said he couldn't take on the big banks that brought our economy to its knees.”
“Some said he couldn't take on the insurance companies that were ripping us off.”
He did not have the same sort of respect for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, or the party whose ticket he’s topping this November.
“The Republican Party has become the party of the 'wouldn'ts' and the 'won'ts,'" Reid complained, strongly chiding the GOP for allowing itself to be taken over by "extremists and ideologues" in the Tea Party. “[They] don't recognize common ground even when they're standing on it."
“Today's Republican Party believes in two sets of rules — one for millionaires and billionaires and another for the middle class,” Reid continued. “And this year, they’ve nominated the strongest proponent — and clearest beneficiary — of this rigged game: Mitt Romney.”
Reid struck no particularly new notes in his speech. The majority leader from Searchlight (yes, of course he introduced himself that way) has been swinging a rhetorical ax at the Tea Party since he faced down, and bested, one of their top candidates during the 2010 election.
In the past several months, he’s taken the same pugnacious approach to the Romney ticket, launching a barrage of accusations that Romney has avoided paying his taxes, and wants to help his rich cronies do the same at the middle class’s expense.
“Trust comes from transparency, and Mitt Romney comes up short on both,” Reid said Tuesday night, as he once again criticized Romney for failing to release more than two years of tax returns. “We can only imagine what new secrets would be revealed if he showed the American people a dozen years of tax returns, like his father did.”
Reid has been criticized by many in the Republican Party for shooting his mouth off with such accusations, and Tuesday night the Romney campaign responded to his comments with extra vitriol.
“Harry Reid has once again shown that he is completely detached from reality,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said, calling Reid’s accusations about Romney’s tax returns “absolutely false” and “another attempt to distract from President Obama’s abysmal economic record.”
But there were no Republicans in the DNC house tonight.
“I think he hammered on a lot of the key points that the president’s campaign has been trying to convey this entire campaign season,” said Kelvin Atkinson, a delegate and state representative for Nevada’s 17th District. “Bring us back to the middle class. Get us away from the wealthiest Americans and make the United States a lot more fair.”
“I was very proud to see Sen. Reid up there representing Nevada,” said Elliot Anderson, another Nevada delegate who doubles as a state representative, for the 15th District. “We should be really lucky as a small state to have this sort of representation at a major national convention.”
They were equally impressed with his delivery.
“He actually brought a lot of energy to his speech,” said Ruben Kihuen, a state senator who briefly ran for the House of Representatives’ first district earlier this year. “Sen. Reid is usually soft-spoken, but he hit it right on.”
“The sign of a good speaker is in the quietness of the audience, to listen to every word,” said Dick Collins, a Nevada delegate, gesturing to the crowd.
There was one section of the audience that was decidedly not quiet, however: The Nevada delegation.
“Everything was just awesome,” said Loretta Harper, a delegate who works as a counselor for the Clark County schools and is a national co-chairwoman for Obama for America. “A-plus. The best he’s ever been.”