As the poster child for the administration’s government-controlled health care legislation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada makes a tempting target for the GOP. From a practical perspective, however, the GOP should be cooling the rhetoric against Reid, not gleefully tossing fuel on the fire and kicking him while he’s down.
And down he is — recent polls of voters in Reid’s home state reveal a shockingly high “unfavorable” rating of 52%. In other words, more than half of Nevada voters have an unfavorable opinion of their incumbent, four-term senator who serves in one of the two most powerful legislative posts in the government. Only 33% of those voters harbored a “favorable”opinion of Reid. Numbers like those are not just bad; for an incumbent they are pitiful.
Reid indicates he will fight to maintain his seat, and his defeat certainly is not a foregone conclusion. However, with numbers this low, and with Republicans already smelling blood as a result of President Barack Obama’s plummeting numbers, it’s easy to understand why the GOP is publicly beating up on the Nevada Senator who never smiles. Were the Republicans clamoring for Reid’s hide to step back and take a slightly broader perspective, however, they might see that defeating Reid would likely result in a case of jumping ”out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Why? Because Reid’s likely successor as majority leader is New York’s Chuck Schumer. Next to Schumer, Reid comes across as the GOP’s best friend; especially on issues like gun control, which many Nevadans oppose. Schumer, unlike Reid, is an unabashed, dyed-in-the-wool liberal, and is probably the most staunchly pro-gun control of any member of Congress in either house and in either party.
While Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin currently serves as Reid’s assistant majority leader and technically ranks ahead of Schumer, who is the majority party’s conference vice-chair, in a post-Reid battle for leader the tough-as-nails New Yorker, who has more political chits to call in than his Illinois counterpart, would likely prevail.
Of course, if the GOP were realistically to expect to reduce the Democratic majority in the Senate from 60 to 49 seats (the Democrats hold 58 seats outright but add two “independents” who caucus with them), and thereby win the right to once again elect a Republican as majority leader, working against Reid would make perfect sense. However, such a scenario is highly unlikely. Given that it is much more likely the Democrats will lose a few but not 11 seats in November, and therefore retain a majority in that body, focusing on defeating other, more liberal Democratic incumbents rather than openly trying to depose the one man who stands between them and Chuck Schumer as majority leader, would seem to make a great deal of sense for the Grand Old Party. Good sense, however, does not appear to be in great supply in our nation’s capitol these days.