“Many analysts add two Democrats to the list of safe incumbents: Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and Washington Sen. Patty Murray. I look at both of these races with a bit of skepticism. Harry Reid has never had an easy election. He won by less than a thousand votes the last time out. He is a likely winner, but it is never a safe seat for him in a state has grown more Republican over the years.”
Is this the analysis of a Republican campaign operative, A publicist for the Republican National Committee, perhaps? Hardly. Those are the words of Bob Keefe, a legendary Democratic campaign consultant, onetime operating head of the Democratic National Committee, and campaign manager for the presidential bid of the late Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson (D.-Wash.).
So if a venerable Democratic wheel horse such as Bob Keefe can see vulnerability surrounding the fourth term bid of cantankerous liberal Senate Minority Whip Reid, why can’t more Republicans who could be of assistance to conservative Republican challenger Rich Ziser? Why do some Silver State Republicans actually donate to the viciously partisan Reid (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 21%), who in turn took $1 million from his campaign kitty and contributed it to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to use against Republicans around the country?
In three elections to the Senate, Reid has seen his winning percentage successively drop. Last time, the No.2 Democrat in the Senate staved off defeat by fewer than 500 votes in the third-closest race since popular elections of senators began. (Interestingly, he defeated Republican John Ensign, who won Nevada’s other Senate seat in 2000 and now does next-to-nothing to help unseat onetime opponent Reid.) In the meantime, Nevada has twice elected a Republican governor and given its electoral votes to George W. Bush.
For his part, the 64-year-old Reid is right hand man to Bush arch-nemesis Tom Daschle (S.D.), and chief head-counter in Democratic Leader Daschle’s tireless attempts to thwart the Bush agenda in the Senate. In Ziser’s words, “Whether the issue is holding up judges, trying to stop the tax cuts, or opposing a marriage amendment, Reid is the obstructionist-in-chief in the Senate and a sworn enemy of the President he once called a ‘liar’on the Senate floor.”
At 50, Ziser has had a long, successful career in the private sector. He took over his father’s small tool and die company and turned it into one of the top 25 new businesses in Nevada. Although he has never held office, Ziser chaired the Coalition for the Defense of Marriage, a citizens group that mobilized tens of thousands of voters to secure passage in 2000 of a statewide initiative affirming marriage as a union between man and woman. Ziser has also been chairman of Nevada Concerned Citizens, a group that lobbies on behalf of gun ownership and property rights.
Given the issues and the quality of the GOP candidate (who has so far put in $300,000 of his own money to underwrite the campaign) and the increasingly conservative nature of Nevada, even partisan Democrats can see the possibility of taking out the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. The next obvious question screams for an answer: why can’t more of Rich Ziser’s natural allies see the same thing and rally to him?
(Ziser for Senate, 5013 Alta Dr., Las Vegas, Nev. 89107; 702-878-0358)