Harry Reid has announced he’ll retire from the U.S. Senate at the end of his term. That gives Nevada Republicans less than two years to catch their breath and find someone else to hate.
It won’t be easy. It might be impossible. Coming up with any one person the GOP loves to loathe as much as it does Reid is hard to imagine. That means there’s little time to waste.
Throughout rural Nevada, the Reid-hating signs litter the landscape. From “Anybody Butt Harry Reid” to my personal favorite, “Will Rogers Never Met Harry Reid,” the revulsion for the famous son of a Searchlight miner is palpable. The opinions don’t get much warmer in the bars and restaurants, where the names Reid and Obama are rarely spoken without descriptive adjectives unsuited for a family newspaper.
And Republican Reid hatred echoes far beyond Nevada’s cow counties.
Invoking the Reid name at times has surpassed that of even President Barack Obama as a tool for reliable Republican fundraising — and not just in the Silver State. Conservative politicians from Maine to California have been running against Harry Reid for years. Some of them have been quite successful substituting their mushy milquetoast opponent for the irascible, cantankerous and otherwise inscrutable leader of the Senate’s Democrats.
Democratic candidates for the new position of Object of Their Eternal Ire include Rep. Dina Titus of Congressional District 1. But, really, after you’ve poked fun at her Georgia accent and proud progressive stances on a few issues, there isn’t much to get worked up about.
There’s unabashed liberal Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, I suppose, but now that she’s no longer rattling the windows of the Legislature she’s strictly a regional Democrat. That doesn’t quite cut it.
Former Rep. Shelley Berkley, she had real potential as a Democrat worth roiling the Republican bile. But she lost to Dean Heller in the battle for U.S. Senate after a nasty campaign in which she was dogged by overblown ethics charges stoked by GOP contributors. The Republicans really missed their chance to find a replacement Reid that time.
Only because Reid mentioned her as his favorite to replace him, former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto must be mentioned. She’s too bland to spark a fire of fury needed to replace Reid in Republican minds.
And on it goes.
Despite recently playing backup singers to Gov. Brian Sandoval during the tax and budget battle at the Legislature, former Nevada governors Richard Bryan and Bob Miller just don’t carry enough political clout to foment the kind of disdain it will take to replace the hordes of Harry haters in Nevada.
Former Rep. Steven Horsford showed a lot of promise as a stand-in for Reid in the GOP tirade competition. He appeared to be going places. But his 2014 loss to Cresent Hardy and recently announced alliance at R&R Partners proves he was just kidding all along.
No, to qualify as a Democrat worth the trouble of truly hating, you have to be in it for the long haul. By the end of his term, Reid will have represented Nevada in Washington 34 years. He long ago set the Guinness record for flummoxing and confounding the opposition.
And even when his own actions on behalf of family members and friends became issues that threatened his political career, he somehow managed to prevail at the polls. Which only made him a more infuriating figure to the state’s Republicans.
Out where the Tea Party roams, there’s a contender for “Most Hated.” Trouble for Republicans is, it’s Republican Gov. Sandoval. He takes almost as much sniping and ridicule as Reid due to his $1.3 billion tax plan to increase education funding.
Nevada Republicans are a lot like the Donner Party in that regard. Without someone as juicy as Harry Reid to pick on, they wind up eating their own.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.