It’s impossible to know what Harry Reid envisioned when he kicked off his 2010 re-election campaign with a bus tour of Nevada.
It was the first time in six years (his last re-election bid, by the way) he had been on such a tour.
But he has been a busy bee.
A bigger national figure today than ever, he played a prominent role in his party’s surge to national power, ramming health care “reform” through the Senate and into law and stimulating the economy, just to name a few things. His campaign boldly nurtures the premise that, like the ’50s movie about the woman who grew to be 50 feet tall after encountering alien radiation in the Mojave Desert, Harry is a giant in Washington, D.C. Nevadans best not ask him to leave.
(To be fair, his campaign doesn’t mention the 50-foot woman. That’s my spin. But the general idea is water from the campaign’s own bathtub.)
Anyway, the point is that you don’t start a re-election bid with a negative attitude. So it’s logical, then, to conclude that expectations in the Reid camp were that the bus tour might find Harry on a victory lap, chest-bumping his way around the state, cheered on by grateful constituents.
And that, of course, did not happen.
Truth is, Nevadans don’t think much of Harry, and when they do think of him, it isn’t in particularly warm or fuzzy terms.
So as the Reid bus tour made its three-day journey into the wilds of rural Nevada (and I find this part nothing short of amazing), our U.S. senator of the past 24 years kept parts of his itinerary hush-hush for fear of encountering protesters.
Consequently, the senator found some Nevadans, mostly in small numbers, who thanked him for his work. And he found others, mostly in small numbers, who gave him hell.
Minden rancher Nancy Park told Reid, “I respectfully disagree with what you’re doing for Nevada.”
In Fernley, 73-year-old Biker Bob refused to shake the senator’s extended hand. A protester held a sign that read: “Welcome to Reid’s throw Nevada under the bus tour.”
Ouch. No chest bumps here.
Then, in Carson City, an unidentified motorist passed the Reid bus in her car, honked and flipped the good senator’s bus the bird. Or maybe it was a one-finger high five?
I’m betting the former.
Now, you can quibble about what a few isolated incidents like these mean. But there is no denying one thing about Sen. Reid’s bus tour: There are no secret throngs of Nevadans out there eager to touch the hem of his garment.
This newspaper’s own polls, which constitute one of the longest-running scientific measures of Nevada attitudes, show no middle ground on Harry Reid. About 38 percent of Nevadans like him and everyone else will vote ABH — Anybody But Harry.
That means Reid can no longer win straight up. He needs November’s vote to shatter so many ways that his hard-core 38 percent becomes enough to squeak out a victory.
It could happen. But it’s akin to a full-court buzzer beater in basketball.
And win or lose, it is remarkable to note the visceral “ho-hum” response in Nevada that so reduces Harry Reid’s chances of winning a fifth term. It is easy to feel, but hard to figure.
He’s Nevada’s most powerful politician in Washington — ever. He’s the champion of mining, one of Nevada’s most important industries. He’ll come in pretty damn handy in a knife fight with other states over Colorado River water. (He is 50 feet tall, after all.)
And, lest we forget, he’s a decent guy who loves his family and his state.
Yet, he skulks through the state in fear of protesters?
Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@ reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.