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October 25, 2014

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Texan picked to help oust Dems in ’10; Reid on list

Reelected as majority leader, Nevadan can expect tough fight in two years

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s autobiography comes out in paperback in a few months and when it does it will contain a new chapter that is being written in real time.

It’s unclear what the new section will include, but Tuesday’s leadership elections in the U.S. Senate may fill some pages.

So overwhelming was the support from Democratic senators Tuesday to reelect Reid as leader that it happened by “osmosis,” as one lawmaker put it.

No challenge materialized from a certain New York senator (hint: she ran for the White House), despite a rumor mill that swirled for more than a year.

Down the hall, Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign likewise ascended his party’s leadership ranks to the No. 4 spot, chairman of the policy committee. Ensign’s promotion was also a unanimous vote of his peers, despite his rough tenure as head of his party’s election committee during an election cycle in which Republicans lost at least six seats with a few others still undecided.

But even on a heady day for the small state of Nevada, which never before has had two senators in such powerful positions, the real action Wednesday may have come from a Texas Republican, Sen. John Cornyn, who was selected to lead Republican efforts to win Senate seats in 2010.

Cornyn will be in charge of trying to defeat Reid when the senator is up for reelection in Nevada.

Cornyn is a prolific fundraiser who contributed more than $2 million to fellow Republicans this election cycle even as he mounted his own Senate reelection bid.

Ensign and Reid maintain a political nonaggression pact that made it difficult for Ensign as chief campaigner to criticize Reid publicly or privately, but the Texan has no such limitations.

In announcing his position on Wednesday, Cornyn made no direct reference to his party’s desire to knock Reid out of office. But Republicans have made it clear that they see Reid as a top prize in 2010.

“There is simply no time to waste,” Cornyn announced in a statement. “I intend to hit the ground running and start laying the groundwork with my colleagues for Republican victories in 2010.”

Some say the race for Reid’s seat unofficially began two weeks ago, the Wednesday after the Nov. 4 election, as politicos left the 2008 races behind and started looking ahead to the next big thing.

Nine days later, Nevada Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki told the Associated Press he is seriously considering a run against Reid, after being courted by Republicans nationally.

Krolicki briefly considered challenging Reid the last time the senator stood for reelection in 2004, but dropped out when others decided to run, even after raising nearly $150,000 in an exploratory committee.

With an early announcement this time, Krolicki could try to stake a claim to the seat before other potential candidates jump in. Those close to him said he was compelled to get out front after Republicans nationally encouraged him to run.

Yet Krolicki is by no means the chosen one this early, sources said Tuesday.

Republican Rep. Jon Porter remains a potential candidate even after losing reelection to Congress, as does Joe Heck, who lost his state Senate seat on Election Day.

Reid has been preparing for a tough reelection, especially after Republicans defeated his predecessor, then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, in 2004. That year, the leader of Senate Republicans broke a century-old tradition by campaigning against a member of the opposing party in that senator’s home state.

In four years since, Reid has built up the Democratic Party in Nevada so much that registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans even in the unlikely northern county of Washoe. Reid often says Republicans have been after him for years.

A source close to Cornyn would not say whether the Texan sees Reid’s seat as his priority for Republicans, but suggested: “There are a lot of opportunities, and Nevada is one of them.”

The paperback edition of the autobiography is due out in spring. But even with the new chapter, the final word may have to wait until 2010.

Lisa Mascaro can be reached at (202) 662-7436 or at lisa.mascaro

@lasvegassun.com.

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