- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

LAS VEGAS — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid won raucous applause from a weekend gathering here of liberal bloggers for shutting down the Senate over intelligence failures in Iraq, blocking President Bush’s judicial nominees and thwarting Republican efforts to reform Social Security.

There’s just one problem for the two-fisted frontman of Democrat politics: Outside the convention hall, the Nevadans who sent Mr. Reid to Washington aren’t quite so thrilled with the job he’s doing.

A poll conducted last month for the Reno Gazette Journal found just 48 percent of Nevadans approving of the job he’s doing, compared with 41 percent who disapprove.

That approval has fallen considerably in the year and a half since he first took the helm of the Democrat Party in the Senate. When he last faced re-election, in 2004, Mr. Reid trounced his opponent with 61 percent of the vote in a state also won by Mr. Bush.

Mr. Reid’s waning support has some recalling the demise of former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who was bounced from his South Dakota seat after three terms when he became the face of what Republicans tagged as “Democrat obstructionism” in the Senate.

What’s more, the poll by Research 2000 found that Nevadans don’t think much of the job Mr. Reid is doing for the national Democratic Party either. Asked whether “Democrats under Harry Reid’s leadership have a workable agenda,” 35 percent of state voters said “yes,” while 43 percent said “no.” And by a 46 percent to 36 percent margin, his constituents said Mr. Reid doesn’t have the “leadership qualities” to guide Democrats to control of the Senate this year. The survey polled 600 likely Nevada voters last month and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

“Poll numbers like this put Reid in a box,” observed Chuck Todd, editor of the political tipsheet Hotline, in an online posting. “While he may be doing things that the [national] party desperately needs done (i.e., make Senate GOPers look like [they] can’t govern), his reputation with home-state voters as a middle-of-the-road Red-state Dem is eroding.”

But among the liberal activists and bloggers from around the country gathered here for the Yearly Kos convention, named for Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas and which ended yesterday, Mr. Reid could not have drawn more boisterous applause — applause that was all the more noticeable in contrast to Mr. Reid’s hushed, sleepy style of speech delivery.

After he was introduced, Mr. Reid mounted the stage and walked to the lectern. He stood with a slight but awkward smile on his face as the crowd of more than 1,000 cheered. From the back of the room, he looked tiny on the black stage, but his visage was enlarged on two giant screens above him.

Once the crowd calmed, Mr. Reid began his speech — almost inaudibly, like a student at a spelling bee — with tales about his grandchildren and then his children. The audience strained to hear him, and there was fitful applause.

But the applause was unified and sustained when he talked about shutting down the Senate or when someone in the audience shouted, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!”

He also promised the crowd that he would do everything within his power to make sure the intelligence mistakes made before the Iraq war are not repeated as Mr. Bush deals with the nuclear crisis in Iran.

“All of us — as Americans — need to review how the Bush administration cherry-picked and hyped the case for war with Iraq to sell it to Congress and the American people so we can make sure it never happens again,” he said.

Next week, Mr. Reid told them, he would introduce legislation to require the intelligence community to monitor and certify all administration statements about the threat posed by Iran.

“Everything they say will have to be supported by facts,” he said. “I have no doubt the White House won’t like this requirement, but after what happened in Iraq, the American people deserve nothing less.”

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