Las Vegas Sun

July 21, 2017

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What Harry Reid may face after June’s primary

Two Nevada institutions were pronounced dead last week — Harry Reid and Yucca Mountain.

These two have died more deaths than Shakespeare’s coward, but both remain alive. But for how long?

I come not to write about the dump today — I’ll save my take on that new panel overseeing alternatives for another column — but to muse about whether Reid really is buried — or, as his friend Dina Titus put it recently, “done.”

The question must be asked (again) because of the blizzard of developments in the contest, both on Reid’s side and for his potential foes. Before delving into this, though, let’s look at the calendar — 275 days until the election. Much can happen. Reid may make another inflammatory remark (odds: overwhelming in favor) and the Republicans may slice and dice each other until a hemorrhaging, bankrupt nominee is chosen (odds: equally overwhelming).

More than one commentator has pointed out as Obama presidency obits are being written that Ronald Reagan was entombed at this point, too. So, too, with Reid, who doesn’t have as long as the president to get well and had substantially lower numbers.

As Obama goes, so goes Reid. And as the economy goes, so go the president and the Democratic fates this year.

There are some wisps of hope on that front here and nationally — recent GDP growth, internal convention authority analyses that show glimmers of hope. But no one knows with any certainty, and the atmospherics remain awful for Democrats.

Reid’s advisers suggest that nothing has changed in the past few months to move his poll numbers, which show about half of the electorate disapproves of him. But when he released his fundraising totals Friday — $15 million raised, $2 million raised and spent in the fourth quarter, just under $9 million on hand — it’s worth wondering what that $6 million has done for him? Sure, it has helped erect some infrastructure, but it also went to already forgotten television ads.

And although Reid hopes to make his case to Nevada voters that if he is really dead, they will be sorry because they can’t live without him, no one is buying that — at least not yet.

As The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote Friday, “Reid, who ended 2009 with nearly $9 million in the bank, will have near-limitless resources to make his case to the state’s voters but what case can he make? His early ads have attempted to reinforce his position of power in Washington but haven’t moved numbers — perhaps because the state’s voters know he is powerful but still don’t want to vote for him.”

That certainly is the state of play as February beckons. But even as Reid’s hopes are resting on a post-State of the Union recovery by both the national and state economies and of the president’s standing, the Republican cannibalism cannot be overlooked. It surely is a delicious sight for Team Reid.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki’s decision to reconsider the race has prompted nasty sneering by his GOP opponents behind the scenes and further indicates just how damaging this Republican primary could be. If the GOP had a clean horse to ride until November, Reid probably should be wondering what kind of improvement projects he can do around his Searchlight abode.

But once these Republicans are done with each other — you are witnessing a near-daily to and fro between Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian — the national GOP can pour all the millions it wants into the state. But Reid and national Democrats not only will match that, the Republicans in D.C. Central will be selling a product that some in the base may want to recall and independents may not be so willing to buy once June arrives.

Some Republicans try to argue the “primaries are good” shibboleth, which I didn’t believe even when I was a cub political reporter. You see, Reid doesn’t know which candidate to eviscerate until June, so that is to our advantage — or so the argument goes.

Please. Who would a badly damaged incumbent rather run against — someone bloodied by a primary or someone not wounded? If you don’t believe me, GOP Rep. Dean Heller made the same case on “Face to Face” last week, urging his colleagues to play nice. It will not happen.

Reid is going to need some luck, too — or, perhaps, a deal with the devil? I wonder: If Harry Reid could trade his political life for Yucca Mountain’s death, would he make that anti-Faustian bargain? Or would it be the other way around — would he cut a deal on Yucca to keep his job?

Now that would be juice.

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