U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is not popular in his home state as he heads into his next re-election battle, according to a new poll commissioned by a conservative political action group.
Reid was viewed favorably by 47 percent and unfavorably by 47 percent of Nevadans surveyed by the Salt Lake City-based polling firm NSON Opinion Research for the Legacy PAC, a California-based activist group that hopes to target Reid for defeat in 2010.
Legacy commissioned the poll to test the waters and determine whether it would be worth the group's while to go after Reid, whose scalp Republicans would dearly love to claim as a trophy. The answer to that question is a resounding yes, said one of the political-action committee's founders, Seattle-based operative Floyd Brown.
"We believe he is extremely vulnerable," Brown said.
In the survey of 400 Nevada voters, which carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, 47.3 percent viewed Reid favorably, including 27.3 percent who had a very favorable view and 20 percent whose opinion was somewhat favorable.
Among the 46.8 percent who had an unfavorable opinion of Reid, 8.8 percent of those polled viewed him somewhat unfavorably, while a whopping 38 percent had a very unfavorable view.
Brown said the fact that "very unfavorable" was the largest of the four opinion groups, and amounted to nearly four in 10 voters, was an especially bad sign for Reid's political future.
A spokesman for Reid responded to the poll by saying Reid was not concerned with public opinion but rather was focused on doing his job in Washington for his constituents, who would judge him by his accomplishments.
"The only number Senator Reid is worried about is the 9.1 percent (Nevada) unemployment rate that came out today," Jon Summers said Monday. "He is going to continue to do everything he can to strengthen the economy and make the state a better place to live and raise a family."
Bad as the new poll looks for Reid, his ratings have been worse. In an August Las Vegas Review-Journal poll, 46 percent of Nevada voters had a positive view of Reid's performance in office, and 53 percent had a negative opinion.
In a Review-Journal survey in October 2007, Reid was seen favorably by 32 percent, while 51 percent viewed him unfavorably.
Coming shortly after the November election resulted in a Democratic sweep both nationally and in Nevada, however, the new poll suggests Reid has not gotten much of a boost from his party's improved stature or from the popularity of the new Democratic president, Barack Obama.
"The political environment right now is extremely positive to the Democratic Party," Brown said. "You've got an incumbent president who is in his honeymoon period, and everything is on top. I don't see his (Reid's) numbers getting any better from here on in."
Legacy PAC is scheduled today to launch a Web site, www.ExposeHarry.com, devoted to its anti-Reid venture, on which it plans to spend as much as $1 million.
Legacy raised and spent about $1.5 million during the 2008 election cycle, helping GOP candidates and opposing Obama.
The problem for the many Republicans who would like to see Reid defeated is that no definitive opponent has emerged. The Legacy poll found lukewarm feelings for one possible challenger, former Rep. Jon Porter.
According to the survey, 33.5 percent had a favorable view of Porter, while 25.1 percent had an unfavorable view, with the rest indifferent to or unaware of Porter.
Also tested in the poll was Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, who faces his own re-election battle in 2010. As he has since taking office, Gibbons scored low, with favorable marks from 30 percent and an unfavorable rating from 57.1 percent of respondents. A stunning 45.8 percent viewed the governor very unfavorably.
Brown said he sees fertile ground in Nevada to start making the case that Reid is out of sync with his constituents. On issues such as immigration reform, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the estate tax and the Iraq troop "surge," Brown contended, Reid has drifted to the left of his conservative state.
Legacy PAC plans to focus on making that case, said another of the group's founders, California election lawyer and conservative activist Jim Lacy.
"We're going to focus on Reid, and hopefully our activities in exposing him might encourage a fine conservative candidate ... to step up and take a shot," Lacy said.
Contact reporter Molly Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.