DSCC’s Menendez: ‘Harry Reid Is Not Tom Daschle’

By Britt

Sep 29, 2009 6:10pm

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Brittany Crockett report:

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (D.S.C.C.), said Tuesday that he is "confident" that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will be returned to office next year despite facing low approval-ratings from voters.

"Harry Reid has probably been one of the greatest senators of Nevada, if not the greatest senator, that Nevada has ever had," said Menendez. "Stopping Yucca Mountain, bringing jobs to Nevada—it's not surprising why there have been so many Republicans in Nevada publicly supporting his candidacy."

Menendez acknowledged that it has become popular in recent years to target the opposing party's Senate leader as Democrats did unsuccessfully last year with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

He argued, however, that Reid does not face the same peril as former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who lost his bid for re-election in 2004 to then-Rep. John Thune, R-S.D.

"At the end of the day, I am convinced that while it has become the new system to go after the Majority Leader, Harry Reid is not Tom Daschle and this is not South Dakota," said Menendez. "And the reality is that I am convinced that Harry Reid will win that race and I would not bet against Harry Reid by any stretch of the imagination."

One of the reasons why Menendez believes Reid is in less trouble than Daschle is that the current Democratic Leader comes from a state with a political make-up that is more favorable to his party.

"It is a state that for the first time now has more Democratic registrations than Republicans, largely because of the influx of the Latino community after the last election. He does very well with that community," said Menendez.

Another reason why Democrats feel confident about Nevada despite the current poll numbers is that Republicans failed to recruit two well-known Republicans into the race: Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and former Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev.

Currently, a crowded field of Republicans is eyeing the race against Reid.

Republican officials in Washington view Sue Lowden, a former head of the state GOP, and Danny Tarkanian, the son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, as the top two contenders.

A Republican spokesman scoffed at Menendez's confidence in Reid's re-election chances and pointed to poll numbers which show Reid trailing lesser-known Republicans.

"The DSCC is absolutely right about Harry Reid not being Tom Daschle.  When John Thune got in the race, Daschle had a clear lead in the polls.  In contrast, poll after poll has shown Harry Reid trailing not just one, but several, candidates who are arguably far less well known than John Thune was in South Dakota four years ago," said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  "If the DSCC is so confident that Harry Reid is positioned to win re-election, why have the Democrats been unable to produce a single poll which has him in the lead?"

"Finally," Walsh continued, "we're not normally in the business of giving advice to our political opponents, but it's probably not a helpful talking point to brag about Harry Reid bringing jobs to Nevada at a time when they have a 13.9% unemployment rate."

Menendez made his comments about Reid during a pen-and-pad briefing with reporters on the 2010 Senate outlook. It was held at D.S.C.C. headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The DSCC chairman said that Republicans had a good August. He argued, however, that their success would be short-lived because their strident opposition to President Obama puts them in the position of betting that the country will fail.


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