He may be leading the Republican presidential field in the polls, but Mitt Romney gets very low marks from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
During a lunchtime meeting with staff members at the Review-Journal on Friday, Reid called the former Massachusetts governor weak and superficial and said Romney represents everything he dislikes about politics.
"He doesn’t stand for anything," Reid said. "Here is a person who was really big on gay rights in Massachusetts. Now he’s not. Here’s a man who was totally in favor of abortion in Massachusetts. Now he’s not. Here is a man who was the architect of the health care bill that we patterned ours after. Now he denies ever being in the same room when it took place."
Reid’s comments came a day after Romney took the stage in Ames, Iowa, for a debate with seven other GOP candidates.
Reid and Romney are arguably the nation’s two most prominent Mormon politicians, but that appears to be one of the few subjects on which they see eye to eye.
Reid’s comments drew a quick response from the Romney campaign.
"President Obama and his allies are already so desperate to hold onto power that they will say and do anything to distract voters from the 12.4 percent unemployment rate in Nevada and their overall miserable economic record," spokesman Andrea Saul said in a written statement. "They know Mitt Romney with his 25 years of experience in the real world economy is the one candidate that can turn this economy around and get Americans working again."
When Reid was asked who he does like in the Republican field, he said he is "very, very impressed" by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"I’m sorry he’s not doing better because I think he is a man of substance," Reid said.
The Nevada Democrat went on to predict that Rep. Michele Bachmann would soon fade in the race.
"She doesn’t stand a chance to win the Republican nomination," Reid said.
The only other candidate Reid mentioned by name on Friday was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his candidacy Saturday.
Reid said he didn’t know much about Perry but he expects him to "be a factor in that race."
But the senator couldn’t resist throwing in a little civics lesson about the Lone Star State: "You may not know this, but the governor of Texas is not as strong as the lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor has more power than the governor of Texas," Reid said.
Texas’ lieutenant governor not only serves as the state Senate’s president, but he also appoints committees and determines the order in which bills are considered.
Much of Friday’s wide-ranging discussion with the Senate majority leader also touched on the recent debt ceiling talks and efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Reid described the past six months of partisan fighting as a "slog through the marshes," but he said "chances are better than 50-50" that the newly announced "super committee" of 12 lawmakers will succeed in reaching a deficit deal.
If they don’t, it will trigger what Reid called "really ravenous cuts," of which 50 percent would come from the defense budget.
"This is our last shot to get something done," he said. "It’s pretty easy. The goal is to save 1.2 trillion (dollars). It’s easy to do that. I hope we do more than that."
Reid wouldn’t be surprised to see the gridlock continue, either. After all, he said, this session of Congress has seen "some of the worst partisanship in the history of the country."
But the rancor still is not as bad as it was in the run-up to the Civil War.
"I don’t see it as the Republic falling apart," Reid said of the current situation. "It’s who we are, and we’ll get through this."
Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.Political Eye blog