Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is worried.
For the past year, Republican candidates have been campaigning to take back the Senate under the “Fire Reid” mantra, highlighting Reid’s failure to run a cohesive body capable of actually passing legislation. Even now, with less than two months to go until the 2014 midterms, Reid is doing what he can to brush off criticism.
As he’s tightened his grip on the Senate and protected vulnerable Democrats from casting politically tough votes, furious Republicans have made the mantra “fire Reid” a rallying cry and major fundraising push ahead of the midterm elections.
But in Reid’s mind, Republicans are training all their fire on a guy most voters barely even know.
“I’m meaningless,” Reid, a three-decade Hill veteran and the most powerful Democrat in Congress, told POLITICO Thursday. “People in red states don’t even know who I am.”
I’ll give Reid partial credit for this response—it is certain that there are a great deal of people out there who have no idea who Harry Reid is, or that Harry Reid exists at all. But when it comes to political messaging, that doesn’t matter.
When Republicans campaign using the concept of taking back the Senate, they don’t focus on Harry Reid, the man; they focus on Harry Reid, the faceless spectre of Congressional dysfunction. Most Americans know generally that the House and Senate are generally unproductive; on top of that, many Americans are aware of that lack of productivity to the point that they don’t trust their own representatives to do their jobs.
Campaigning for Senate as a Republican is less about Harry Reid and more about being able to show your prospective constituents a laundry list of things you’ve tried to do to help improve their lives, and then in turn show them exactly why those things aren’t going to happen before 2015.
It’s a Democrat problem. Democrats are in the majority, Democrats set the calendar, and Democrats are throwing away legislation that will make things better. It doesn’t matter if voters associate this miserable failure to lead with Harry Reid or Harry Potter, as long as when they enter the polling place, they see the “D” on the ballot and feel the urge to punch a wall.
The goal is to get voters to make the connection between a Democratic majority, and their state getting the short end of the stick; Reid is just the masthead on a sinking ship—and it’s not just Republicans he’s putting in a tight spot:
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said no matter what Reid believes, his handling of the Senate will be a key factor come fall.
“How do you explain to your constituents even as a member of the majority party you are unable to get a piece of legislation voted on and heard on the floor?” Cornyn said. “To me, the biggest charge they’ll have to defend is being ineffective – and it’s all at Sen. Reid’s feet.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is poised to take Reid’s job if he survives his race in Kentucky and the GOP wins the majority, said he believes about half of the Democratic Caucus is “uncomfortable” with the lack of legislating in the chamber. If he becomes majority leader, McConnell has vowed to “restore” the Senate, bringing back five-day workweeks, rebuilding the weak committee process and holding a free-flowing set of votes on the floor.
McConnell pointedly noted that Sen. Mark Begich — a vulnerable Democrat up for reelection in Alaska — has yet to have an amendment vote on the Senate floor, even as the GOP leader’s own regular filibuster threats have helped bottle up progress in the chamber.
“The way the Senate has been operating has actually been a negative in his reelection campaign,” McConnell said.
It’s Change 2.0, and Democrats are worried. They might even be panicking. They’re doing things like this:
Actual photo of Sen. Mary Landrieu helping a supporter conduct a keg stand pic.twitter.com/VKxoNipFFy
— Ellen L. Carmichael (@ellencarmichael) September 21, 2014
And for the love of God, this, which even I find not-quite-hilariously offensive.
Reid claims he’s switched the focus of the public, but with the Senate in recess until after the election, Republicans have over a month to flip that strategy on its head and use the dysfunction as a tool to target Democratic challengers.
We may not win a supermajority, but I’ll take a narrow majority if it means being able to call Harry Reid “the Minority Leader.”DONATE
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