Will Harry Run Again?

140827_ralston_reid_ap.jpg?width=300WILL LIFE'S INEVITABILITY BE THIS COUNTRY'S SALVATION?

There are whispers that the Senate majority leader is washed-up, finished. Should we believe them?

Forty years ago, a relatively unknown youngster had fought his way to a slight advantage over former Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt.

But the challenger felt he needed a coup de grâce, so he raised questions about Laxalt's family finances, wondering about the provenance and propriety of certain funds.

Laxalt responded by putting his sister out front to explain how she had lived her life with a vow of poverty: She was a nun. The outrage was palpable; Laxalt was elected by 624 votes.

The loser in that 1974 race was 34-year-old Harry Reid, whose putative killer instinct had killed the messenger (i.e. himself), theoretically ending his political career. But four decades later, buoyed by a series of fortunate events and a determination bordering on indomitability, Reid appears to be poised to embark on a bid for a sixth term.

Or is he?

Questions about the 74-year-old’s health, his recent move to be closer to his children and grandchildren and uncertainty about the Democratic majority in the Senate lead some knowledgeable insiders to speculate that Reid will retire rather than face a challenge in 2016.

“I don’t think he will run again,” said one insider with decades of experience in Nevada and D.C. politics. “He’s not well. His wife isn’t well. He has grandchildren. And he may not be in the majority after November.”

That, however, is a minority view, albeit an understandable one based on observing Reid. Those close to the majority leader say his health actually is quite robust, that he is intent on mounting another campaign and that he relishes any challenge, even from popular Gov. Brian Sandoval. As for the reports that the Koch brothers are plotting to bring him down, his staff has a ready answer: Bring it on.

Although some Reidites are willing to concede he has slowed down, with the signature shuffle now even more pronounced and his notoriously poor balance palpable. But they say his mind remains sharp as ever, even though several sources told me they have recently witnessed him lose his place in conversations or meander into tangents before regaining his focus.

And then there are the gaffes. So many, so much more frequent, it seems. Just last week, Reid was forced to apologize for what for him was a minor slip, more a case of him trying to be too cute by saying he had trouble “keeping my Wongs straight” at an Asian Chamber of Commerce event. This was not on par with describing the first African-American president as “light-skinned….with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one,” which one Nevada Democrat recently called “as bad as it gets.”

But it was cringe-worthy enough, and another sign that whatever filter Reid once had is gone, perhaps because of older age, perhaps because he has decided not to run or simply because he is … Harry Reid.

The majority leader’s staff allows no room for equivocation.

“Senator Reid is running for reelection regardless of who his opponent is,” said Reid’s spokeswoman Kristen Orthman. “We fully anticipate the Koch brothers will spend millions of dollars trying to buy the race in Nevada. We also fully anticipate they will be unsuccessful as they have been in previous cycles when Nevadans rejected their anti-middle class, anti-Social Security agenda.”

But what else can she say?

In this case, though, the spin may be the truth. After talking to some keen, longtime observers of Nevada politics, I remain unshaken in my belief that Reid intends to run, absent any serious health concerns for himself or his wife. But with his intense war against the Koch brothers, whom he seems to mention every time he gets on the Senate floor, and his approval numbers as bad or worse than they were before he ran last time, Reid has raised questions about what his endgame is – or if this is the end.

Reid declined to be interviewed for this piece. Some of those who agreed to talk about Reid’s health, gaffes and/or machinations understandably did not want to be identified. But they are all reliable insiders who are tuned into Nevada and D.C. politics, and some are far from Reid sycophants.

***

When he spoke last week in Vegas to the Asian Chamber, Reid, a voracious reader, told the crowd about a book he had just finished. “I would recommend it to everyone,” Reid said. “It’s called Dowager Empress Cixi. Read that. It’s a best seller. It’s a great book. Everyone should read that. … This remarkable woman did so much for China.”

Reid has mentioned the book (he got the title slightly wrong) to others, too, but not simply because he loves history. “In some four decades of absolute power, her political killings, whether just or unjust … were no more than a few dozen, many in response to plots to kill her,” Jung Chang writes of the empress.

A leader who is ruthless in pursuit of and holding onto power, who is willing to dispose of political enemies and who revels in changing history. For four decades!

The parallels are clear. That explains why Harry Reid loves the book, and to many of those who know him, helps explain why he will never willingly give up power.

Harry Reid will do virtually anything that is not contrary to the law to achieve his objective,” said one Democratic insider who knows Reid well. “He is strategic in his thinking and very focused.”


Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/will-harry-reid-run-110400.html#ixzz3BoW2M87m

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