Harry Reid: Not Much of a Mathematician

With Congress on recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on the campaign trail in Nevada, preparing for a reelection fight in November. Via The Weekly Standard, he spoke with Carson City's Nevada Appeal yesterday and had an upbeat message: "If the election were held today, I'd win."

Reid pointed out that the general election ballot could have eight candidates for U.S. senator: himself, the Republican primary survivor, four independents, an Independent American Party candidate and a Tea Party candidate. Some frustrated voters may choose the ballot's ninth option: None of the above.

"Do the math," said Reid candidly. 

Really, Senator Reid? Also, really, Nevada Appeal? It's hard to see Reid's comments as particularly candid—he's either looking at the world through powerfully distorting rose-colored glasses, or he's being disingenuous.

It's plausible that come November, Nevadans will decide to send him back to Washington for a fifth term. But right now, it doesn't look good. Talking Points Memo points out that he seems to be basing his statements on a poll of Reid against a generic Republican and a generic Tea Party candidate. Yes, Reid leads that poll—but with a pretty small 36 percent plurality, and with 14 percent of respondents undecided. Although there are six independent or third-party candidates in the mix now, it's reasonable to expect that the general election will boil down to a smaller field of serious contenders.

Worse, beyond the generics, he runs poorly against each specific Republican and has for some time, according to Pollster.com's averages. Against Sharron Angle, a member of the Nevada House of Representatives, he trails by more than 10 percent. Against former state senator and Republican Party chair Sue Lowden, he trails by more than 15 percent. And against Danny Tarkanian, a former basketball star at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and real-estate developer, Reid's down about 10 percent. Reid's approval, already low, before the health-reform vote, has gone even lower.

Of course, polls should always be taken with a grain of salt, it's early in the race, and no politician will ever say that things look bad for them, but Reid's going to need to be more realistic if he wants to avoid the same fate as Tom Daschle. Speaking to supporters in Carson City, he sounded tired: "I'm not very good at blowing my own horn. Some other people will help me do that, I hope." But hope won't overcome Reid's deficit. That's going to take hard work and good luck.