Sunday, January 10, 2010

Harry Reid's Racial Comments May be the Icing on the Cake for Republicans

The upcoming release of the book "Game Change" by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin next Tuesday is already creating a stir. The book chronicles the 2008 Presidential campaign and one of the items that has received some press attention is this snippet from Page 37 about Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) saying that his:
encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a "light-skinned" African American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

If you are wondering whether this is true, you don't have to wonder very long as Sen. Reid's office put out this statement apologizing for his "choice of words":

I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments. I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama's legislative agenda. Moreover, throughout my career, from efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry to opposing radical judges and promoting diversity in the Senate, I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community.

So what does this mean for Reid? Chris Bowers at OpenLeft makes some good arguments that this incident may be the icing on the cake for Reid's political opponents who are licking their chops at the prospect of defeating him:

It is very difficult to see how Harry Reid can win re-election at this point.

At the base of Harry Reid's problems are the unemployment and foreclosure rates in Nevada. In terms of foreclosures, "Nevada is #1 in the entire country, and has been so for years. Further, the Silver State has significantly higher unemployment than the rest of the nation. Even the recent drops in unemployment in Nevada have come as a result of tens of thousands dropping out of the Nevada workforce, not from an increase in jobs.

There are few places in the country, if any, that have been hit harder by the recession that Nevada (and that includes Michigan). In that environment, it would be difficult for any longstanding, powerful, well-known politician in the state to be re-elected.


While at one time there was an argument that Reid could still have won re-election by using his vast monetary advantage to go nuclear on his unknown Republican opponents, thus driving up their unfavorables, this latest incident now makes that much more difficult. This is a sort of scandal has the potential to cut right at the heart of Reid's base, which is mainly the 30% of state voters who self-identify as non-white. It may not turn into a big deal, but it will be something of a deal. Given his current position, taking any hit, especially among his base, is virtually fatal to Reid's chances.

Given this, I would not be surprised to see Reid pull a Chris Dodd in order to save face politically. However with no standout Democrat to take his place at the moment, it is very easy to see how this seat may already be a lost cause come November for Democrats.

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