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Harry Reid's dilemma: He can't talk about John Ensign scandal

Harry Reid has a dilemma on his hands. He has a very effective argument at his disposal that he could be making to Nevadans about why they should keep him in office.

The problem is that he can't -- and he won't -- ever make that argument. Because to do so would be to violate his non-agression pact with Nevada's other Senator, Republican John Ensign.

This is viewed as a real issue by some Nevada Democrats, and they're wondering how the Reid campaign is going to resolve it. Here's the rub: One of Reid's primary arguments is that they should keep him in office even if they disagree with the Obama/Dem agenda because he brings home the bacon for Nevada. To replace him with Sharron Angle, this argument runs, would be to replace a veteran with a neophyte that has no pull in D.C., squandering the considerable clout the state enjoys in Washington

One way to make this case more explicit would be to argue that Nevada's other Senator, i.e., Ensign, is fast losing his influence because of the scandals that have been dogging him. He recently admitted to an extramarital affair with a staffer, and since then, new revelations have left him increasingly isolated within the Senate.

In other words, if Reid were to lose, both Senators from Nevada could be largely ineffective when it comes to wielding power in D.C.

But neither Reid nor his campaign will ever make this case publicly. Reid and Ensign have a tacit agreement not to take shots at each other, Nevada Dems point out, in order to more effectively work on behalf of the state. So some Dems think Reid is disarmed in the sense that he can't make one of his most potent arguments.

A Reid campaign spokesman, Jon Summers, refused to comment when I brought this up with him. "Our primary focus is on Senator Reid and his vision to create jobs, keep Nevadans in their homes and get Nevada's economy back on track," was all he would say.

Don't be surprised if you start hearing other Democrats begin to make this case about Ensign, though. It's a key dynamic to watch.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 14, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans  
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Next: Latest right wing attack: Obama only cares about black victims of terrorism


And what about a timely indictment? Aren't all bets off if Ensign is indicted for one of the crimes he seems almost certain to have committed in covering up his affair and letting the woman's husband lobby him from the job Ensign helped him get?

Posted by: Mimikatz | July 14, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Mimi, I assume that would change the dynamic significantly. Barring that, I assume Nevada Democrats outside the Reid campaign will start making this case.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 14, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Unilateral disarmament by Reid isn't going to feed the bulldog. It's not campaigning against Ensign to say that his legal issues may make it hard for him to stay in the senate. I don't recall anyone holding back when Daschle was pilloried by national republicans. Where is the dems hardball response?

Posted by: srw3 | July 14, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Mimi, I disagree. Just because Ensign is a piece of garbage doesn't mean Reid needs to scrap his word, besides, he's running against Angle, not Ensign.

Posted by: SDJeff | July 14, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

This is a piece of the puzzle, Greg, but I'm afraid if Reid can't convince voters that he's a better choice than Sharron Angle, who is a fringe candidate, then it's not going to matter.

When are the debates?

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 14, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

@greg: If this is the most potent argument Reid has, he is in deep doo doo.

Staying on th Angle is a nutcase message (every day provides another chapter in this narrative, not to mention the goldmine in the collective computer memory of her past statements) is a lot more effective than arguing about senate representation diminishing because the other senator is in trouble.

Let's face it. Reid looked and acted like a wimp during HCR by not pressuring dems in the caucus to toe the line on cloture. The same with other cloture votes. If he doesn't get tougher with his caucus, he deserves to lose. But since his opponent is a proud inhabitant of farrightwingnutistan, he should be able to survive...

I just wonder when dems will realize that the republicans play the senate obstruction game to win, and if they continue to slosh around in a sea of tantrums from senators (I am talking to you Nelson, Bayh, Lincoln, holy joe, and new entrants Feingold and Murray) they look like they are not up to the task of taking on a brutally efficient and united republican caucus.

If those members want to vote against the actual substantive legislation, I can see why that could be tolerated. Voting against cloture is just WRONG. IT IS WRONG TO VOTE AGAINST YOUR OWN CAUCUS ON PROCEDURAL MATTERS. DEMS, YOU BETTER FIGURE THIS OUT FAST OR YOU WILL BE IN THE MINORITY NEXT FALL!!!

Posted by: srw3 | July 14, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Sam Stein is 'unearthing' more video of Angle today hidden on Brody File.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | July 14, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, if Angle gets any trouble from Ensign she'll just wish death upon him like she usually does right Greg.

Posted by: Truthteller12 | July 14, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

@Truthteller12 : It is nice of you to reanimate the "second amendment solutions" Angle line. The gift that keeps on giving...

Posted by: srw3 | July 14, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"Don't be surprised if you start hearing other Democrats begin to make this case about Ensign, though."

Yet more surrogate work on behalf of Reid? I thought he was a boxer - when did he lose his juevos?

Posted by: sbj3 | July 14, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"when did he lose his juevos?"

Good question. Hell the mob even put a hit on him. It's hard to call a guy like that a wuss, but Harry seems to fit the bill.

Posted by: SDJeff | July 14, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

@sbj3: Reid is under the mistaken belief that republicans will play fair in elections and he feels he should do the same. Republicans play to win and he better as well.

Personally, attacking Ensign seems like a pretty weak strategy when Angle is like a fountain spewing great campaign material daily. Her continuous dodging of the press (as opposed to Faux news) is a much more potent weapon. But, I think there is a line between stating facts, like Ensign is under investigation for some unethical and possibly illegal acts, doesn't come to the level of campaigning against him.

Posted by: srw3 | July 14, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It is an insult to Nevadans' intelligence to say they should vote for Reid because he can bring home the bacon. He supports all of Obama and Pelosi's economic policies which have lengthened and deepened the recession. He is mean spirited and says goofy stuff. (Like just this week -- that there are no illegals doing construction in Nevada? It's one of those: is he lying, or is he crazy enough to believe that?) Let him be retired in peace.

Posted by: yourstruly1991 | July 14, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"Obama and Pelosi's economic policies which have lengthened and deepened the recession"

Ok yourstruly, first off, the recession Bush gave Obama ended last year. The economy hasn't completely turned around, but it takes time to undo 8 years of damage.

And do you have any evidence that Pelosi, Obama, or Reid did something to lengthen or deepen the economic downturn? Or are you just repeating bogus talking points that you don't understand in the first place?

Posted by: SDJeff | July 14, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

All, right wingers are now claiming that Obama only cares about black victims of terrorism:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 14, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Reid is trying to limit carbon when Nevada has a 14% unemployment rate. This will cause your electric bill to go way up. Wrong time and place.

Posted by: farmsnorton | July 14, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

@yourstruly1991: He supports all of Obama and Pelosi's economic policies which have lengthened and deepened the recession.

Its too bad that this transparent lie has bee refuted by a consensus of economists, like Mark Zandi of Moody's (he is so biased toward liberals that he advised McCain during his campaign). The biggest economic legislation the ARRA has shortened the recession and kept unemployment 2-3% below what it would have been without it. I guess you would like to see 12% unemployment, no aid to state and local governments so they have to lay off even more teachers, firemen, police, etc. further weakening demand and have not allow people to receive the largest middle class tax cut in history.

Posted by: srw3 | July 14, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

@farmsnorton: This will cause your electric bill to go way up.

Some facts, links, etc. would make this a more believable statement. And what does 'way up' mean? And PLEASE don't point people to the discredited Heritage "analysis" that distorts data from an MIT study. The study's author publicly chastised Heritage for using numbers that are not consistent with his findings.

" [M]any of the proposals currently being considered by Congress and as proposed by the Administration have been designed to offset the energy cost impacts on middle and lower income households and so it is simplistic and misleading to only look at the impact on energy prices of these proposals as a measure of their impact on the average household...An EPA analysis of the draft version found that "[t]he cap & trade policy has a relatively modest impact on U.S. consumers assuming the bulk of revenues from the program are returned to household[s]," and it estimates the average cost per household to be between $98 and $140 per year. "--politifact

Posted by: srw3 | July 14, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

So, here you have a man who is the Majority Leader in the United States Senate (=a big deal, folks) and a man of his word (=a meeting of the minds a long time ago with Ensign not to bad mouth each other) and Nevadans might not vote him back into the Senate over Angle and Ensign? Wow!

Posted by: dozas | July 14, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

More liberal whining, more music to the ears.

The opposition candidates running against the cynical career politicians make for excellent targets, don't they boys and girls?

Folks like Rand Paul and Sharon Angle are neophytes, right? they lack the kind of skills at dissembling that Harry & Co perfected years ago.

they are also much more in line with a vision of citizen legislator than the crop in DC now.

so the liberals can prattle on and play their silly rachel madow gotcha games. The targets of this derision will continue to make direct appeals to the people. We'll soon see who matters in this election cycle: effete snobs like Mr Sargent, or honest, simple, straightforward people like Paul and Angle.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | July 14, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

"Harry Reid's dilemma: He can't talk about John Ensign scandal"

Good thing he probably won't really need to.

Posted by: CalD | July 14, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

I wonder why the Republican Governor of Nevada Jim Gibbons isn't held to blame for the high unemployment there?
Why is it all the lone Democratic Senator?
By the way, as an outsider, this is the first I have heard of the other senator's scandal and the argument is very good.
In my own district in Florida the argument is used to send Cliff Stearns, the Bush rubber stamp, back to Washington again and again.

Posted by: EddieNY71 | July 14, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

It's a good thing Harry has you to carry his water then isn't it Greg. Shill.

Posted by: daveredhat | July 15, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

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