Reiding Between the Lines


ReidHis decision not to seek another Senate term sent Washington into a tizzy last week, begging questions as to what prompted the surprise career choice and what it portends for control of the chamber beyond 2016. But enough about Indiana Senator Dan Coats . . .

Instead, it’s Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who made the big splash in announcing that he won’t seek a sixth term next year. And this being the nation’s capital, where no one voluntarily relinquishes power unless (a) they’re shoved out the door or (b) happen to be awaiting indictment, one wonders what all contributed to Reid’s retirement.

Here are three things to ponder:

1) Maybe The Timing Was Right. Reid turned 75 last December, a month after the worst political beating in his career, and a month before an exercise-related accident that left him with broken ribs and facial bones (plus eye damage, which is why he’s wearing those shades in the image above). Perhaps Reid’s also tired and decided he couldn’t stomach another six years in Washington (and maybe we should have seen this coming, after the senator sold his Ritz-Carlton residence last summer). Politico’s Jon Ralston, who’s covered Reid for the better part of three decades, wrote the following: “This was an intensely personal and intensely secretive decision. Not even his closest friends knew until Reid and top aides started making phone calls before dawn in Nevada. This was between Reid and his wife, Landra, who is by far the most influential person in his life. Even some of his kids were not aware. One person who knew put it succinctly: “The honest truth: He didn’t want to be the old senile guy in the Senate. That people looked at and said he used to be sharp. And he wants to win the majority back and go out on top. Prospect of another eight years was too long. 2 or 4, yes; 8, no. And he would never allow his seat to be appointed by [a Republican] governor. So now he can pick who he wants to run in his seat.”

2) 2016 Won’t Be 2014 — It Also Won’t Be 2012, 2010, Or 2008. The last time Reid sought reelection, in 2010, he caught a break. Dean Heller, back in 2010 representing Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District (he’s now Nevada’s junior U.S. Senator), took a pass on challenging Reid. In that year’s GOP primary, Sue Lowden, a former anchorwoman/state senator/state party chair and mainstream favorite, lost to the Tea Party-backed Sharon Angle. After a $20 million campaign portraying Angle as extreme and dangerous, Reid prevailed . . . well, survived is more like it, pretty much as the lesser of two evils. But 2016 offers two intangibles for a Nevada Democratic candidate that 2010 didn’t: (1) can the party’s nominee win a Senate race if the opposition is the popular GOP Governor Brian Sandoval?; and (2) in a presidential year, can Hillary Clinton turn out the same numbers in Nevada as did Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012?

3) The Effect on the Senate Map? The favorable terrain for Republicans in 2014 comes back to bite them in 2016 — 24 seats to defend, to only 10 for the Democrats. How does the chamber flip or stay red? By the outcomes in the following states currently with Republican senators: Florida (Marco Rubio’s seat), Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. But Reid’s departure gives Republicans hopes in not one but two twice-Obama states (Nevada and Colorado). The importance of the GOP getting those two pick-ups: it would force the Democrats to take back at least six GOP seats (seven, if a Republican’s elected president), to regain majority control. The GOP’s Senate haul in 2014: nine seats. But that was possible due to the plethora of red-state Democratic senators either on the ballot on bailing lest they experience defeat. For Democrats to make a similar run in 2016, they’ll have to branch out to non-blue turf — i.e., Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina. Of course, all of that could change in 2018, when Democrats have to defend 23 seats, to only 8 for the GOP.

So those are your choices. Reid’s retiring because he (a) wants to avoid senility, (b) doesn’t like the way 2016 is shaping up back home, or (c) doesn’t see another four-year run in the Senate majority.

It’s multiple choice.

And there could be multiple correct answers.

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  1. user_1126573 Member

    d) he has gotten himself into real trouble with some bad people who were responsible for the injuries he suffered on New Years Day. He was either told he won’t be running anymore by those people, or Reid is afraid that running will expose his relationship with those people.

    • #1
  2. user_1126573 Member

    Mr. Whalen, do you actually believe that the injuries Reid suffered are consistent with falling off of a treadmill? They seem much more consistent with someone pummeling him in the face with their left hand and then kicking Reid in the ribs once he fell.

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  3. Ricochet Member

    Reid doesn’t really inspire confidence in Nevada from what I’ve been able to tell. There was excitement in 2010 that we’d be able to kick him to the curb, but we ended up nominating a pretty awful candidate. Reid was lucky to stave off a serious contender during the Tea Party festering, and I think he knows 2016 will be much more difficult. Brian Sandoval is incredibly popular, and I don’t think the Democrats have anything of value in the state; the GOP has all statewide offices, a majority in both houses, one US Senator, and a 3-1 majority in the congressional delegation. If we didn’t swing towards Obama in these last two elections, you’d think we’d be solidly red.

    The thing to watch was the lieutenant governor’s race. If a Republican won, Sandoval could challenge Reid without the fear of the governor’s office turning blue. Reid’s preferred candidate lost handily, so I’m sure that aided his decision to hang up the skates. The door’s wide open now, and it’s Gov. Sandoval’s if he wants it.

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  4. River Inactive

    Reid is getting out of town just ahead of the posse. He knows he’s toast if an honest AG is appointed, so this way he can dispose of evidence in advance and fend off law enforcement. I think he definitely got a “tuneup” by a mob enforcer, too. So he made them mad at him.  He may be toast either way. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving weasel.

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  5. user_353507 Member


    I suggest a reading of the latest PowerLine article by John Hinderaker:

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  6. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.

    John Wilson:Mr. Whalen, do you actually believe that the injuries Reid suffered are consistent with falling off of a treadmill? They seem much more consistent with someone pummeling him in the face with their left hand and then kicking Reid in the ribs once he fell.

    I’m not a Harry Reid apologist, but two years ago my dad, 79 at the time, tripped over a sprinkler head and fell down hard. He broke 4 bones around his eye and looked pretty much like Reid did after his accident. As time went on the bruising just got more and more bizarre; ending up around his chin. For Reid, maybe being the guy who broke his face falling off a treadmill is too close to being the guy who is going senile.

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  7. Ansonia Member

    Re comment # 5

    From John Hinderaker…..
    “Was the Senate Majority Leader in the pocket of the Mafia? That seems like a question worth exploring,…..”
    Who—looking at Reid’s injured face—wants to risk annoying people by exploring questions ?

    • #7
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