GOP stalls in effort to oust Reid

Senate Republicans are unlikely to land their most formidable recruit to take down Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBiden fails to break GOP 'fever' Nevada governor signs law making state first presidential primary Infighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms MORE (D-Nev.). 

With Gov. Brian Sandoval delaying any decision until summer, his indecision is costing Republicans precious time in their quest to oust the party’s biggest target in 2016. 


The popular governor is at the top of wish lists for Nevada and Washington Republicans, but he has suggested he won’t run. Still, Sandoval is unlikely to make a final announcement until after the state’s legislative session concludes.

That has frozen the field for other GOP hopefuls and left national Republicans in a holding pattern. 

Sandoval has said he wants to focus on his legislative agenda, one that includes tax increases that has angered the GOP base as much as it has Democrats, and he has all but ruled out a bid.

“Do you really think, if this is my last session as governor, I would propose the things that I proposed last night, thinking I might be on a ballot?” Sandoval asked influential Nevada journalist Jon Ralston in a recent interview.

When pressed by Ralston, Sandoval repeatedly refused to declare that he definitely wouldn’t run. But those close to him say he is focused on getting things done in Nevada and has no desire to commute to Washington to work in a body that has been largely dysfunctional for the past decade.

 “The governor is completely focused on the legislative session. I think that will be done before he gives a final decision,” said one Nevada Republican familiar with Sandoval’s thinking. “I don’t think he’s going to run, but I also don’t think he’s ready to say ‘no’ yet.”

Republicans say current Lieutenant Gov. Mark Hutchison and former Lieutenant Gov. Brian Krolicki are both interested in running but won’t make any moves until they’re sure Sandoval is out. The same goes for Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson (R) and a half-dozen other potential candidates.

“I don’t think Sandoval is going to make a Shermanesque statement until after the session. But he’s showing no interest in running. Something really strange would have to happen for him to run,” Ralston told The Hill. “We won’t know much until the summer.”

Reid’s poll numbers have been underwater in recent surveys, and if Sandoval runs, the governor would likely start out as the favorite. 

Republicans still think they can beat the incumbent senator without Sandoval, but they’ll have to nominate a candidate acceptable to swing voters. Most importantly, they need to avoid a costly primary that could produce a flawed candidate like Reid’s 2010 opponent, Tea Partyer Sharron Angle. 

However, the entire race could be shaken up if Reid reverses course on running for reelection. 

The 75 year-old Democratic leader suffered a bad fall while exercising over the holidays and had to miss work to have one surgery — with another expected — to try to save his eye.

The senator further stirred questions about his commitment to a sixth term in his first press conference after returning, when he made comments that some read as less than definitive.

“I plan to run,” he told reporters in late January. “My staff has continued to review my new campaign. We have quite an operation.”

Reid and his staff have since insisted unequivocally that he’ll be on the ballot in 2016.

“Sen. Reid is running for reelection, period,” said Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman.

But his injuries have some close to the senator, a former boxer known for his toughness, worried that there’s a chance that he might not run again.

“The conversations [with Reid staff] both internally and externally are all the same: that he’s running. The official line to friends and family is it’s full steam ahead,” one source close to Reid’s political operation told The Hill. “But in my gut, I’m not sure he does.”

Reid already has much of his campaign team in place. Many of the people who ran his potent field operation in 2010 never left Nevada, staying in the state to help President Obama in 2012 and continuing to work for the state party. 

His fundraising operation never stopped churning either. Reid has already been raising cash this year and had close to $1.5 million in the bank at the end of 2014.

Those close to Reid admit that hiring for the rest of his staff has slowed down due to his injury. He had to cancel some candidate interviews for campaign manager and other positions during his recovery.

When he dislocated his shoulder and bruised his face during fall while jogging in 2011, he returned to work the same day. That he missed as much work as he did shows how much pain he was in.

“When he got hurt, everything was kind of put on hold. Reid couldn’t meet with potential staff; he was down for a while. There hasn’t been an update in two weeks or so because of that,” the source close to Reid’s team said of the difference in injuries. “This time, the man was out for weeks. He was in an excruciating amount of pain.”