CARSON CITY — Nearly half of Nevadans have had enough of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the powerful Democrat heads into his re-election campaign, a new Las Vegas Review-Journal poll finds.
About a third of the state’s voters would re-elect Reid if the 2010 election were held today, according to the poll, but 45 percent say they would definitely vote to replace him. Seventeen percent would consider another candidate.
The findings are echoed by another poll question about Reid’s popularity that finds the four-term incumbent to be a polarizing figure in his home state.
Half of Nevada voters had an unfavorable view of Reid, while 38 percent had a favorable view and 11 percent a neutral opinion.
The statewide poll of 625 Nevadans who vote regularly was conducted by telephone last week by Washington-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. for the Review-Journal. It carries a margin of error of 4 percentage points in either direction.
Reid’s approval ratings at home have been subpar for years, particularly since he ascended to Democratic leader in 2004 and to majority leader in 2006.
He had hoped things might improve with the departure of President George W. Bush, but that’s not the case, at least not yet. The poll finds Nevadans are bullish on President Barack Obama even as they are unhappy with Reid.
Fifty-five percent of those polled viewed Obama favorably, while 30 percent saw him unfavorably and 15 percent were neutral on the new Democratic president, who carried Nevada in last year’s presidential election by 12 percentage points after years of Republican dominance in the state.
Mason-Dixon Managing Partner Brad Coker said for now, Obama is enjoying a honeymoon with voters, while Reid still gets stuck with people’s negative views of Congress.
"Obama so far has been able to stay out of the fray and let Reid and (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi get their hands dirty," he said. "Obama’s so popular, he’s a hard person to take a shot at right now, so Reid and Pelosi become the punching bags."
Nonetheless, Coker said, Reid can expect to capitalize on Obama’s popularity down the line if it lasts — and to pay the price if the president’s political standing takes a turn for the worse.
"Reid’s fortunes are going to hinge on two things: Does he draw a strong challenger, and what does the economy do," Coker said. "If Obama and his policies are seen as a success and the economy by mid-2010 appears to be doing better, these numbers will turn around some. The other side of that coin is, if the economy doesn’t seem to be improving, particularly in Nevada," Reid could have a tough time.
No major opponent has yet stepped up to face Reid.
Reid’s campaign manager said the senator does not pay much attention to polls.
"The primary number Senator Reid is worried about is Nevada’s 10.4 percent unemployment rate, and that’s why he’s focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs in Nevada," Brandon Hall said. "Polling numbers move up and down. The only poll that really matters is on Election Day."
Feelings about Reid were somewhat split along party lines, though more than a third of his own partisans weren’t sold on the senator.
Some 61 percent of Democrats, 7 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independent voters said they would vote to re-elect Reid.
Among Republicans, 71 percent would definitely vote against Reid, a sentiment shared by 20 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents.
Reid’s strongest support was in liberal-leaning Clark County, where 39 percent want to see him re-elected and 42 percent want to replace him. Thirty percent of Washoe County voters and 24 percent of rural Nevadans plan to vote for Reid, while 50 percent and 54 percent, respectively, would vote against him.
A partisan split also was seen on the question of whether Nevadans believe Obama’s economic stimulus plan is working.
Overall, 37 percent said yes, 42 percent said no and 21 percent weren’t sure. But Democrats were heavily on the "yes" side, 59 percent to 18 percent, while Republicans said "no," 69 percent to 14 percent. Independents favored "no" by a narrower margin, 46 percent to 29 percent.
"The jury is still out," Coker said. With most of the stimulus money not yet even released, the numbers might have been different if the question was not whether it’s working but whether people approve of it as a policy.
"The numbers are mixed and it’s split along party lines," he said. "Twenty-one percent are saying, ‘We don’t know yet.’ We’ll track this and see how it changes."
Reid’s fellow Nevadan in the Senate, Republican John Ensign, continues to enjoy high marks from voters, with 53 percent viewing him favorably and 18 percent unfavorably.
Another member of the state’s delegation who’s often mentioned as a potential Reid challenger, Rep. Dean Heller, was unknown or neutrally viewed by a majority of voters. Thirty percent viewed him favorably, 15 percent unfavorably.
Contact reporter Molly Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.