The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

16 November 2004

What Will Sen. Harry Reid do for the Dems?

With Senator Daschle's removal from power a Democrat Party short on talent has now turned to Nevada Senator Harry Reid to replace him as Senate Minority Leader. Commentators haven't said much about Reid, not seeming to be very familiar with him, claiming he is quiet and nondescript.

Based on my clashes with Senator Reid in the past, I'm not sure how true this is. When you click on the title link above, you will see a 1998 story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that paints a different picture.

I believe Reid is more like Daschle than people realize, most certainly he's received a lot of training in political hardball from the outgoing South Dakota Senator. For one thing, both are much more liberal than the states they represent. Reid has also had some reelection close calls, against Sen. John Ensign six years ago in particular. Reid also shares a very partisan approach to issues, don't expect him to try to work with Republicans on much.

Daschle had a knack for getting to know his constituents in a personal way, would sound conservative in South Dakota, then revert to form in D.C. Reid is not known for charm or warmth and does not seem to have a strong desire to meet the voters of Nevada on a regular basis. Reid instead built his power at home through ties to special interests such as major land developers in Southern Nevada.

Before his failed attempt to get me fired from Reno's KOH-AM radio eight years ago, I was around him a number of times when he regularly came to the station to record announcements. He always came across as a man with little personality and lacked the presence you expect when a US Senator walks into the room. Personally, I will always owe him one for the quote that he was glad I was leaving Nevada for a position in Seattle.

His beef with me was criticizing him over a story about ties to Del Webb Corp. that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Reid was used to having an unusual level of control over Nevada's media outlets and outspoken talk show hosts like myself were new and foreign to him at the time. He used then-aide Jenny Backus (now a national party operative) to go after me in the press.

I'm not sure what Sen. Reid can do for the Dems in their current sorry state. He certainly lacks charisma and an interest in the types of issues that the party might use to reverse their fortunes. I can't imagine him ever being an effective attack dog against Senate Republicans and President Bush. One wonders if he will last in the position for long or merely be a caretaker while the party licks its wounds and works on rebuilding.

However, Republicans would make a terrible mistake if they were to underestimate his abilities, they way Democrats have with President Bush for so long. If they dismiss him as quiet, inept, or incompetent they will overlook a lot of potentially effective plotting and scheming.


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