The most interesting thing Harry Reid told Chuck Todd

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sat down with NBC's Chuck Todd for a wide-ranging -- is there ever any other kind? -- interview about the world's greatest deliberative body, the Koch brothers and, yes, even the Washington Redskins. But, the most fascinating part of the sitdown came at the end -- when Chuck asked Reid his thoughts on the coming 2016 Democratic presidential race.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) answers reporters' questions during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol April 30, 2014 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It was a lengthy back and forth but it's worth excerpting large chunks of it.  First, here's Reid on his feelings about the Clintons:

Chuck: And on the Democratic side, you didn't mention any names.  Why is that?

Reid: No, I'm not going to.  I--

Chuck: There's one name.

Reid: I have a few friends out there.

Chuck: Well, there's one name that -- that -- do you think--

Reid: Everybody -- everybody knows I love the Clintons.  And I don't need to say more.

Later, Chuck probed on Reid's feeling about the possibility of a serious primary challenge to Clinton -- and whether primaries were generally a good thing.

Chuck: And do you want her to be the nominee?  Or do you think there should be a healthy primary process?

Reid: Rarely do I think primaries are healthy.

Chuck: Oh, is that right?  You don't think they're good for for Democrats?

Reid: Why do you go to all the trouble?  It'd be nice to just have people anointed and run off -- I'm being facetious, you know.
Chuck: Oh, okay. I thought you were and I wasn't sure.  So, you think -- you think it would be better for -- for Secretary Clinton if she has a serious Democratic rival?

Reid: I believe that the primary that was -- with Obama and Clinton was an extremely healthy process.  I think it was wonderful.  And I think it -- people learned about these two people that they didn't -- things they know about before.

That's absolutely fascinating -- particularly when you remember that Reid was one of the driving forces behind recruiting a freshman Senator named Barack Obama to challenge Clinton in the 2008 presidential race. Here's how Reid described the encouragement he gave to Obama in the epilogue to his memoir -- as described by the then Las Vegas Review Journal's Sun's Lisa Mascaro:

Reid said he invited Obama to his office off the Senate floor ostensibly to discuss other matters. But actually the majority leader brought the young senator in to tell him, as Reid writes in the book, “If you want to be president, you can be president now.”

Reid recalled Obama as uncertain, even doubtful of his presidential prospects, according to the epilogue in “The Good Fight: Hard Lessons from Searchlight to Washington.”

“I think he was kind of surprised by the conversation,” Reid told the Sun last week. Reid could not recall the exact date of their talk. Obama filed papers to run in mid-January 2007, with a public plan to announce his formal candidacy almost a month later.

Reid's comments are doubly fascinating when you consider that several of his Senate colleagues -- including Claire McCaskill and Tim Kaine, both of whom were early Obama endorsers in 2008 -- have already thrown their full support behind Clinton's potential candidacy in 2016. Not only did Reid not endorse Clinton in the interview with Chuck, he seemed keen on the prospect of a contested primary -- a scenario that the Clinton forces would be glad to avoid.

Now, of course, Reid does have a long relationship with another candidate thinking about running: Vice President Joe Biden. But, Reid never even mentions Biden's name in the interview.

Why Reid chose this particular tack when asked about the possibility of a 2016 Clinton bid is anyone's guess. (He certainly had to expect that Chuck would ask the question.) But, the tepidness of his responses -- you should watch the clip below to get the full effect -- does suggest that Reid may not be ready to sing from the Clinton songbook just yet.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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