Reid's odds lowered by one handicapper

One day after state Sen. Mark Amodei of Carson City entered the Senate race, national pundit Charlie Cook moved U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s race out of the “likely Democratic” category into the “toss up” category.

Of course, it had nothing to do with Amodei, the latest Republican in the race. He wasn’t even mentioned in the Cook Political Report’s analysis, which is closely followed in the political world.

The report said, “If we were skeptical of Reid’s vulnerability at the start of the cycle, we have become increasingly convinced over the last two months or so that he is as endangered as any Democratic incumbent seeking re-election in 2010. Reid’s inability to improve his standing in the polls, coupled with the deteriorating political environment for Democrats nationally and Lowden’s impending entry into the race, are clear indications that his political problems are deep and will be difficult (though not impossible) to fix.”

Before she’s even entered the race, Sue Lowden, a former state senator and soon to be former chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, appears to be moving toward the position of the Republican the national guys are going to back.

They won’t say so … at least not yet.

But the news release about Reid's change in status from the Nevada Republican Senatorial Committee was gleeful in quoting the Cook Political Report, which seemed interested in Lowden more than any of the other contenders.

In January, we’ll know which Republican is seen as the party’s best hope. It may not be an official blessing, but it will be the candidate with the biggest war chest reported to the Federal Elections Commission.

If Lowden has the biggest pot of money, then she’s the one the national Republicans believe has the best chance of beating Reid, because it means they will have been pushing money into her coffers.

She’s not the pro-choice Republican woman Reid has always feared, because as a lifelong Catholic, she is pro-life.

But at this point, she looks like the closest think to a chosen one there is, even though Danny Tarkanian is showing stronger in the polls.

The only consolation for Reid is that the Cook Report said Reid’s “close calls at the polls and his verbal gaffes …  amount to only a small part of why the incumbent looks increasingly vulnerable.”

In other words, don’t blame Reid personally. Although that’s a small consolation if he loses.

Cook credited Reid’s vulnerability to the political environment, the weakening of Democrats and Obama, and the fact that as majority leader, it’s easy to portray the Nevada senator as more liberal than moderate. Cook also said Nevada economy will work against Reid. (Apparently, Cook didn't buy into Gov. Jim Gibbons' oversimplified blame game the state's unemployment is the Nevada Legislature's fault.)

If Reid loses, and I’m not sure he will because I never discount Reid's abililty to run a ruthless campaign, Cook has provided a lot of cover for the senator.

But if he loses and becomes the second leader of Senate Democrats to go down in defeat, maybe Democratic senators will ask whether the glory and the power is worth having a target painted on your back.

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