The Washington Post

Harry Reid’s advice to Republicans — and why they won’t follow it

Here's Harry Reid's advice to Republicans in Congress: "Get a life and start talking about doing something constructively."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) center, seen with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Reid (D-Nev.) made the comments during a rare national television interview with "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer on Sunday — a sit-down that was defined by the utter disdain in which the Senate majority leader holds many Republicans in Congress. On everything from extending unemployment insurance to budget talks to Obamacare, Reid dismissed congressional Republican arguments and defended his decision to change the filibuster rules governing judicial and executive branch nominees — and sought to goad them into deal-making between now and the midterms.

Not going to happen. Here's why.

Republicans know that midterm elections are different from presidential elections. Turnout is far lower, and, typically, midterms wind up being decided by which party's base is more motivated to come out.

So in 2006, Democrats won a massive victory (and control of the House) thanks to a wildly passionate base ready to send George W. Bush a message. Four years later, Republicans won back the majority on the back of a tea party movement that grew out of distaste for the growth of government under President Obama.

In both of those instances, the election had very little to do with what the minority party was proposing in terms of policy initiatives. Instead, the 2006 and 2010 election turned on what the party in power had done, and the other base's resistance to those policies.

Fast forward to this midterm election. No issue — and we mean no issue — inflames the Republican base like the Affordable Care Act. Need evidence? Of the 88 percent of Republicans who said they disapproved of Obama's handling of the health-care law in a December Washington Post-ABC News poll, 77 percent put themselves in the "strongly" disapproved camp. (Of the 64 percent of Democrats who approved of the law, 42 percent did so "strongly.")

Those Republicans aren't looking for their side to offer an alternative to Obamacare between now and November. All they know is that they hate the law, and the first chance to punish people for it will come in 10 months time. "All they talk about is how bad Obamacare is," Reid told Schieffer. "They don’t talk about doing anything to improve it." And to win in November, they don't need to.

Now, while simply being the people who tried to slow/stop/oppose Obamacare might be enough for Republicans to hold the House and maybe take control of the Senate in November, it's not close to enough for the party to win back the White House in 2016 — particularly because the man for whom the law is nicknamed won't be on the ballot. (Remember that Mitt Romney, who, by the by, was actually running against Obama, tried to make the 2012 election a referendum on the incumbent's handling of the economy and health-care alone. Didn't work so well.)

In short: Republicans may well prosper in the midterms by ignoring Reid's advice. But they would do well to remember that winning a midterm election and winning a presidential election are two very different things.


Liz Cheney is ending her Wyoming Senate bid.

Mitt Romney accepted the apology of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry.

Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn had another very good fundraising period, bringing in $1.6 million during the fourth quarter of 2013.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is open to extending unemployment insurance — but only if Democrats compromise.

Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer (D) remains coy about possibly running for president in 2016.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) doesn't think Edward Snowden should get life in prison or the death penalty.

Reid said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is not "some maverick" who is "spewing socialism."

The tea party leader looking to challenge Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has abandoned his bid before it ever really got started.


"In Congress, 2014 begins with shrunken ambitions" — Paul Kane, Washington Post

"Koch-backed political network, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012" — Matea Gold, Washington Post

"Hillary Clinton's shadow campaign" — Maggie Haberman, Politico

"Can Obama raise his job-approval ratings enough for a political recovery?" — Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

"Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas goes it alone in Republican primary against Sen. John Cornyn" —  David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

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