Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that President Bush will go down as the Millard Fillmore of our time, and said the Republican president is the best thing Democrats have going for them for the 2006 elections.
“I think our biggest cheerleader for getting back some of the votes we’ve lost in the last couple presidential elections and some congressional elections is George W. Bush,” the Nevada Democrat said in predicting a big election year for his party.
He said Republicans will be doomed by the indictments that have hit the White House and House Republican leaders, an investigation into stock sales by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, big budget deficits and lack of progress on pensions and health care.
Mr. Reid has changed his mind from May, when he said on the floor of the Senate that it would take “a miracle” to win five seats — the number necessary to gain parity with Republicans in the Senate.
“Frankly, at that time we weren’t doing nearly as well then as we are now,” Mr. Reid told reporters yesterday at a lunch organized by the Christian Science Monitor. Now, however, he said he “wouldn’t be betting a lot on Republicans controlling the next Congress.”
“We’re going to pick up seats. History’s on our side. It’s just a question of how many we pick up,” he said.
He said Democrats will defeat four incumbent Republicans — in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Montana and Missouri. He also said Democrats have a “viable candidate” in Arizona, have a chance at defeating the incumbent in Rhode Island and are looking at races in Mississippi and Tennessee.
Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Mr. Reid’s strategy of defeating incumbents and winning races in the South has failed in the past.
“Apparently he didn’t notice the fact that only one freshman member of the Senate actually defeated an incumbent, and that the Democrats were taken out to the woodshed across the South last cycle,” Mr. Nick said. “Despite Senator Reid’s personal flip-flop, he will still be the minority leader during the next Congress.”
Mr. Nick also said Mr. Reid’s message was “more negativity and pessimism.”
“He’ll continue to carry the water of the MoveOn.org-George Soros crowd and say and do anything to placate them,” Mr. Nick said, referring to the left-wing activist Web site and the leftist billionaire financier. “This out-of-the-mainstream crowd was defeated last November because Republicans offered a clear agenda and a record of results.”
Mr. Reid was not complimentary when asked how he rated Mr. Bush’s political standing.
“I think he’s done a terrible job as president,” Mr. Reid said. “I think he’s going to be known, perhaps, as being the Millard Fillmore of the last 100 years.”
Mr. Fillmore was the last president from the Whig Party, which collapsed in the 1850s.
Still, Mr. Reid said he does not count Mr. Bush out. He said he learned that lesson in eighth grade when a new boy showed up in his hometown of Searchlight, Nev.