Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2014

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LETTER FROM WASHINGTON:

Majority Leader Clinton? Senate insiders say, ‘Nah’

There’s a story in town that won’t go away.

It shows up in different forms, morphing slightly to fit the political calculus of the day, but always ends with the same punch line: Sen. Hillary Clinton will not be president but will replace Harry Reid as Senate majority leader.

Sometimes it comes up as a suggestion, as in: Reid should offer Clinton his spot as a way for her to gracefully bow out of the presidential race.

Other times as a backroom deal between the two, as rumor had it during the heady days before the 2006 election that swept Reid to power.

Sometimes it is simply the wishful musing of bloggers unhappy with Reid’s style. Last week it appeared both as an op-ed piece by a former Republican Party operative writing in The Wall Street Journal and an April Fool’s joke in Nevada.

As enticing as it may be to envision such a dramatic end to this drawn out Democratic Party presidential nominating contest, those close to the Senate say it just isn’t going to happen.

Consider the pieces of this puzzle.

Would Clinton even want to run the Senate? She has amassed a certain unmatchable star power in the chamber. She has bodyguards. Many question what she would gain other than the headaches that come with the majority leader’s job.

Even more, would the Senate have Clinton as leader? One reason senators stand by Reid is because he stands by them. Reid gives his committee leaders wide latitude to conduct their affairs and protects his caucus from tough votes.

Remember last year, when Reid’s credentials as majority leader were called into question in the op-ed pages of The Washington Post after he blurted out that the Iraq “war is lost.” All 50 Democrats, including pro-war independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, signed a letter to the editor in the next day’s paper supporting him as their man.

Clinton would need to convince the old bulls of the Senate as well as the newer members, including many who have thrown their presidential endorsements to Sen. Barack Obama, that she would care for them as Reid does.

Plus, Clinton would need to climb over those next in line — Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, now the majority whip, and fellow New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who is on Durbin’s heels in the No. 3 position.

All of this includes one dicey assumption: Reid would step down.

Sure, Reid may have bad days in the Senate, and his work as leader may be scuffing up his reputation back home, where he faces reelection in 2010. But one thing Reid is not, those who have watched him know, is a quitter.

If the truculent boy from Searchlight, who fought so much as a kid he became an amateur boxer before going on to wrestle with the Mob in Nevada and a president in Washington, was ever going to walk away from something, would this be it?

Besides, Reid seems to be having fun. When he holds forth in the Senate halls, he banters with the playful confidence of someone who knows how it’s all going to work out. More than ever, as leader, he can do what he wants for Nevada, from bringing in money for projects to stopping a Yucca Mountain nuclear dump.

Why would he give up all that now?

People say they’ve learned long ago never to say never in Washington. That is smart advice. But for now, when you ask around here whether there is any truth to the story that won’t go away, the answer is always the same: No.

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