Obama's future plans rely on Reid's survival

By Michael D. Shear
Friday, July 9, 2010; 3:14 PM

LAS VEGAS -- A teenager watching President Obama and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid ham it up together at a fundraiser here Thursday night might have offered this assessment: "AWKWARD!"

There was Reid, sitting uncomfortably on the stage of a big hotel ballroom as Obama, standing at the lectern in front of 3,000, took great pleasure in cracking the audience up with his best Harry Reid impersonation.

In a voice that was more "mellow Ronald Reagan" than truly Harry Reid, Obama poked fun at Reid's soft-spoken style, to the point of almost pleading with him to get a bit more juiced up for his own reelection campaign.

"He comes across as soft-spoken -- you know, how he's all like 'well, you know,'" Obama said, doing the voice. "Even when he's in front of a big crowd, he's like 'well, you know. ... Okay, okay, we're trying here, trying hard."

The president apparently believed this was killer material, because after a while, he started up again; "This is going to be a tough race. Harry reminds me, he's never been in an easy race. That's because he talks softly and says, 'well, you know I don't like to brag about myself. I'm from Searchlight.'"

The ribbing may have been in good fun, and it came in the middle of what was essentially a 40-minute presidential informercial about the virtues of being Harry Reid. But a serious message came through: despite being very different men, these two politicians need each other desperately.

Obama's presidency has arguably relied on Reid and his orchestration of the Senate more than any other single person. If the president's financial reform legislation passes in the coming days, it will be because Reid has once again squeaked out a narrow victory for the president.

But now it is Reid who needs Obama to help him win a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. Struggling in the polls, Reid's one-time dominance in the state is threatened in part by the weight of having quarterbacked Obama's policies.

Their fates are -- for better or worse -- intertwined for the next four months. Reid's record is Obama's record, and the senior Nevada senator is being called on to defend it. Obama's success in the Senate is Reid's success, making it imperative that he come to Reid's defense, as he did Thursday.

"He doesn't always do what is popular. But he always does what's right for the people of Nevada. And that's why you've got to send him back there for one more -- for one more term. ... You've got to send him back," Obama urged the crowd. "I need you to work for him. I need you to knock on doors for him. I need you to make phone calls for him."

Need is the right word. Obama calls Reid a "dear friend," but the relationship between any president and a majority leader of his own party is more complicated than just the personal connection between them. Reid and Obama are no different.

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