The Fix: Harry Reid's Early Gamble

By Chris Cillizza
Monday, October 19, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) took to the Nevada airwaves late last week with ads designed to reintroduce himself to voters more than a year before a single ballot will be cast.

Reid launched two ads. One, which is running in Las Vegas, focuses on his role in keeping construction going on the City Center project. The other, running in the Reno market, is a more straightforward bio piece detailing the Democrat's hardscrabble roots and tenacity.

The commercials, which began airing 383 days before the November 2010 vote, are either a sign of Reid's desperation amid faltering poll numbers or a planned re-introduction effort for a man who hasn't been on the ballot for six years.

Reid allies insist that the ads were born of demographic necessity. Nevada is growing so fast that an estimated 30 percent of the voters moved to the state since Reid was on the ballot in 2004. "Long planned to begin airing a year out from the election, the two spots will begin introducing the Majority Leader to the 395,749 new voters registered in Nevada since his last election in 2004, or approximately one third of all registered voters in the state," read a news release on the commercials.

Plus, the ads note, Reid, as the most powerful senator in the chamber, has the ability to deliver in a way that no one else can.

Those less favorably inclined to Reid insist that the ads are a knee-jerk reaction to recent polling that shows the Democrat trailing former Republican Party chairwoman Sue Lowden and businessman Danny Tarkanian in head-to-head matchups. "He needs to change the game," Republican pollster Glen Bolger said of Reid. "His image is so poor that waiting would be a disaster. If this doesn't improve his image, then he's the Jim Zorn of senators -- waiting to be fired."

The argument for ads like this is that Reid will be on television long before his likely GOP opponents, and that before the negative assault begins, he will have a chance to make a case to voters that he should be reelected.

The argument against the early ads is that voters simply aren't focused on campaign politics more than a year before an election and, given that, running TV commercials is akin to flushing your money down the toilet.

Our sense? These ads represent a necessary gamble by Reid.

States in play

Fifteen days out from the Nov. 3 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, both parties' expectation-lowering machines have gone into high gear.

Republicans say a split verdict in the two states would be a victory for them. They point out that the states went for President Obama last fall and say the fact that they are competitive is a sign of his -- and his party's -- faltering appeal.

Democrats respond that the party in the White House hasn't won a governor's race in either state since 1985, when Gov. Tom Kean (R) won a second term during Ronald Reagan's presidency.

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