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April 24, 2014

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POLITICAL MEMO:

Reid quietly helping Kihuen’s congressional bid

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Karoun Demirjian

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid walks out of a luncheon for Nevada lawmakers visiting Washington D.C. at the Library of Congress with his arm around State Senator Ruben Kihuen, who is contemplating a run for Congress, on Saturday, July 23.

Publicly, Nevada’s most powerful Democrat, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, is remaining neutral in the primary between state Sen. Ruben Kihuen and former Rep. Dina Titus for the 1st Congressional District.

Reid’s spokesman Zac Petkanas confirmed that last week.

“He’s neutral,” Petkanas said. “At this point, he’s not going to endorse (someone) in the Democratic primary.”

Behind the scenes, however, it’s a different story: Kihuen is clearly Reid’s favored candidate.

Reid’s political allies have quietly reached out to contributors to convey the Senate majority leader’s preference, and his people have expressed, again quietly, gratitude to those who have publicly backed Kihuen.

Perhaps the most public sign is that those who helmed Reid’s 2010 campaign are now working Kihuen’s race, including one of his closest former advisers, Jon Summers; his notable pollster, Mark Mellman, and his former political director, Megan Jones.

The one exception is Brandon Hall, Reid’s 2010 campaign manager, whose new firm is handling Titus’ media strategy. (Ironically, Hall worked with Reid’s folks to recruit Titus into a last-minute race against Jon Porter in 2008. Titus won.)

The question now is: How strongly will Reid work behind the scenes? Will he attempt to finesse Titus out of the race? Will he and his people go full-bore against her?

Or will he continue to work behind the scenes and maintain the appearance of neutrality?

Those who know Reid well say any of those scenarios is possible.

Indeed, Reid has taken each of those approaches to influence races in the past. If he can’t prevent them from occurring in the first place, Reid has been known to be calculating when it comes to his party’s primaries.

In 2006, he quietly supported Democrat and former Henderson Mayor James Gibson in the gubernatorial primary against Titus, but publicly remained neutral. Insiders say he did little meddling in that race. Titus had a devoted base and was always favored to win. Aggravating her base wasn’t in Reid’s best interest.

In 2008, Reid remained conspicuously neutral when then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were battling for the presidential nomination. Publicly, he said preserving the importance of Nevada’s third-in-the-nation primary contest was more important than choosing sides in the race.

Later, the book “Game Change” revealed Reid was one of the first Democrats to recruit Obama to run for president. Reid ultimately endorsed him in June 2008.

More recently, Reid abandoned finesse to oust Las Vegas businessman Byron Georgiou from the U.S. Senate primary against U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, using his influence to dry up Georgiou’s campaign contributions and criticizing him publicly.

But the terrain is different for Reid when it comes to Titus and Kihuen.

Berkley has been a longtime ally of Reid’s. Georgiou was a political newcomer in Nevada with no real following in the state.

The opposite is true of Kihuen and Titus.

Reid’s affinity for Kihuen is both personal — Kihuen has been a loyal foot soldier in Democratic politics — and strategic — his candidacy will likely drive Hispanic turnout, which could be key to victories for Obama and Berkley next year.

With control of the U.S. Senate in the balance, a Berkley victory would help Reid hold onto his position as majority leader.

But Titus has a loyal base within the Democratic Party that Reid doesn’t want to antagonize.

“It’s likely to be a tight race,” said Democratic strategist Dan Hart. “And people like Sen. Reid would be very careful about alienating either side by becoming too demonstrative in their support for either one.”

If Reid were to formalize support for Kihuen, he would likely wait until Kihuen proves himself an effective candidate.

For her part, Titus said neither Reid nor his top lieutenants have urged her to pass on the primary with Kihuen.

“I have a very good relationship with the senator,” Titus said. “He supported me in Congress. He’s been a friend for a long time. I haven’t gotten any calls from the White House or anybody saying, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get out of this race.’”

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  1. I care less about hearing about Harry Reid secretly engineering the campaign in the 1st CD and more about, concretely, what the candidates stand for and their experience in achieving those goals. Let that be the basis, and hopefully votes will be guided by concrete facts instead of presumptions and reading scandalous motives into every twist and turn of this campaign. The only interests served by a mud-slinging campaign are the media owners who stand to up their sales and ratings.

  2. There are some really relevant comments made here about this upcoming race between Kihuen and Titus.

    Senator Reid is a "company man" with the Democratic political party. He will do only those things that are favorable for the Democratic party, not necessarily the Citizens of Nevada or the United States of America!

    The BIG swing vote is with the "Hispanics." Young, inexperienced Kihuen is the best bet for latching onto those "Hispanic" votes, not Titus. This is about putting the Democratic Party in control by 2014 when more seats are up. No matter how much experience Titus has in the political trenches, she ain't "Hispanic." Call it discrimination, it is what it is. All the political correctness is now catching up with political parties. Just look at the possibilities of Cain going against Obama, the kind of mindset about that.

    And then there is the putting of Dina Titus under a microscope careerwise. With ALL that EXPERIENCE and over 20 years in an active political career, just maybe she is a "part of the problem, rather than a part of the solution". Maybe she has written or supported laws that got America and Americans into this mess? Did she support enforcing our BORDERS??? Bet she sure wishes she did now!

    We can now watch politicians catering to the Hispanics while they virtually ignore the rest of us. Heck of a deal.