Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | 9:05 a.m.
WASHINGTON -- Greetings, Early Liners, on a morning when so many eyes are on Las Vegas for the president’s visit. And what do they see?
A governor who refuses to greet the commander-in-chief on the tarmac. A mayor hopeful for an apology. And the state’s top senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a brutal re-election fight against no one in particular.
Yet if ever there was a time for policy to trump politics, this might be it.
Nevada’s steadily climbing unemployment rate is 10.4 percent. The state’s budget is being slashed. Homeowners continue losing their houses at such a pace that Southern Nevada can’t seem to shake its standing among the foreclosure capitals of the nation.
The president is touching down to a fundraiser for Reid, who brazenly told the New York Times in today’s editions he expects to raise $25 million for his 2010 re-election battle.
No candidate has officially announced a campaign against Reid. Reid told the NYT (and Sun colleague Jon Ralston aptly noted):
“There were a couple of people talking about running against me last year,” he said. “We beat them. They’re gone.”
But that hasn’t stopped Reid from running what his aides call an "aggressive" campaign, or a conservative group from planning to protest his re-election tonight outside Caesars. Former Republican Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, who is exploring a run, will have a meet-and-greet this morning in Las Vegas.
By the time Bette Midler, Sheryl Crow and the other superstars fill up the stage at Caesars Palace tonight, Reid may be well on his way to that fundraising goal. He already has $7 million on hand.
What has been missing from the many analyses of Reid’s re-election chances is the fact that this is May 2009, not 2010.
Reid’s poll numbers are low – about as bad as they were last fall in another survey. That’s a problem. Yet there is time to turn that around. There is also time for a Republican candidate to emerge.
After all, when John Thune beat then-majority leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota in 2004, the Republican didn’t enter the race until January of that year.
Nevadans still look favorably on Obama, who was elected by a 12 percentage point margin in 2008 – greater than any Democrat since Franklin Delanor Roosevelt.
Even in the historic swing state of Nevada, with its fierce independent streak, Obama remains popular -- he polls about three times higher than the Republican governor.
After tonight’s star-studded fundraiser for Reid, Obama will head to Nellis Air Force Base on Wednesday morning to discuss the economic recovery program in Nevada.
Perhaps then politics will make way for policy.
Nevada could use the attention.