Reading Harry Reid
By Ben Pershing
What is Harry Reid thinking?
Even in normal times, it's a common question, as the Majority Leader's ability to schedule bills on the Senate floor puts him at the fulcrum of every major legislative fight in Washington. And these aren't normal times, with the health-care debate concentrating an enormous amount of attention on the decisions being made inside his suite on the second floor of the Capitol. Reid's announcement Monday that he will include a public insurance option in the Senate health-care bill, a switch from where the Nevadan seemed to stand just a few weeks ago, sparked a host of theories on what really motivated his move:
It's about Nevada. This is the easy play -- of course it's about Nevada. Reid has a genuinely tough reelection fight in 2010, and every thing he does over the next year must be seen through that prism. Without the strong backing of unions and Democratic activists that helped President Obama win the state in 2008, Reid can't win. Dana Milbank writes: "As Democratic aides described it, the moment had less to do with health-care policy than with Nevada politics -- and one vulnerable senator's justifiable fear of liberal anger." The New York Times reports that "Reid's decision was acclaimed by liberal organizations like MoveOn, Families USA and Health Care for America Now." The Las Vegas Sun portrays Reid's move as a shrewd one, noting a Research 2000 poll that found 54 percent of Nevadans support a public option (described as "something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get.") The same survey put Reid's favorable rating at just 35 percent and had him trailing both major GOP opponents, a reminder that the incumbent had to do something to change the dynamics of the race.
Posted at 8:30 AM ET on Oct 27, 2009
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