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Might Harry call it a day?

I’m a voice in the wilderness on this prediction, but when the deadline for filing for political office in Nevada approaches in early March, it won’t surprise me in the least if Sen. Harry Reid calls it a day on his long lawmaking career.


Well, not to put too fine a point to it, he’s headed for disaster anyway, like the proverbial paddler caught in a swift river with the falls fast approaching.

The mood in Nevada (and the rest of the country) has generally taken a hard turn against President Barack Obama and Washington Democrats. In Nevada, the dislike for Reid grows more intense by the day, indicating that if Harry stays in the U.S. Senate race, the contest will be waged solely as a referendum on him.

Forget the many issues of the day, the merits (or lack thereof) of the eventual Republican opponent or even the power of Reid’s formidable campaign funds. Voters will pull the lever largely based on how they feel about Reid — and right now, to use the vernacular, people ain’t feelin’ good.

The Review-Journal’s newest tracking poll, taken last week, shows Reid’s popularity remains at an unwinnable level, as it was a month ago, six months ago and a year ago.

The Reid camp talks a brave game about how its own “double-secret probation” polls show him winning. But he’s not winning. If the election were held today, two, perhaps three, of the Republicans in the race would trounce him. So, in the next two months, there will be an uncomfortable moment at Reid campaign headquarters when some wonk will fess up to the old man:

“Boss, unless something dramatic happens, we’re toast in November.”

At that point, reality will set in and, notwithstanding the hackneyed “Reid-is-a-hard-knock-pugilist” myth, it’s fairly easy to envision the practical side of Nevada’s senior U.S. senator looking for a soft landing.

Reid’s peak leverage to cut a deal with the Obama administration is now, not November. Given the priority of health care “reform” to the president, Reid could pretty much name his next job within the administration, thereby saving a little face and preserving one of the things Harry says Nevada needs most in Washington — the power of Harry.

Reid could also take his campaign resources and newfound time to help his son, Rory, who on the current trajectory faces likely defeat in his bid for governor. Do not underestimate the powerful motivation of a father sacrificing for his son.

And, finally, if Sen. Reid timed his exit just right, he could push former Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson, a very conservative Democrat, virtually unopposed through the liberal gantlet of a Democratic primary, thereby giving his party its best chance at holding onto Harry’s seat.

When I revealed this theory to folks over the holidays, they looked at me like you’d look at a street preacher yelling, “Repent! The end of the world is near!”

Then Sen. Chris Dodd surprised the political world and shook the Democratic Party by announcing he’d retire at the end of this year, rather than face likely defeat in November. Now everybody wants to hear my theory again. They think I know something from an inside source.

I don’t.

I just know Nevada. I can read a poll.

And I’m bold enough to tell the truth — even to powerful U.S. senators.

So allow me to repeat: The end’s a-comin’, Harry, one way or another.

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@ reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

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