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Harry Reid

President Obama, Harry Reid bound by necessity

Harry Reid 15%

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President Barack Obama needs Harry Reid to get his legislative agenda through the Senate. 


Reid needs Obama for something more — his political survival.

AP photo composite by POLITICO Obama ReidThe two leading Democrats are taking those efforts to Las Vegas, where Obama is heading Thursday to bolster the embattled Senate majority leader. The president’s overnight trip, the first of his second year in office, is a sign of how entwined Reid and Obama’s fortunes have become.


And of how Obama, whose administration was blindsided last week by Reid’s decision to abort a bipartisan jobs bill, isn’t holding a grudge but instead sees Reid’s success as essential to his own.


“The president has a lot of respect and affection for Sen. Reid and appreciates that he’s been a solid leader in a very difficult time,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser.


Obama and Reid’s political marriage has weathered some bumps since the last time the two were together in Vegas in May, including the revelation that Reid once described then-Sen. Barack Obama as as "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" while expressing his support for his presidential bid.


Several weeks later, Obama irked Reid when for the second time he used Las Vegas to highlight poor economic decisions, saying, “You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college.” Reid fired back, telling Obama to "lay off Las Vegas.”


And to the applause of House Democrats, Obama dinged Reid’s domain in his State of the Union speech as the place where much of his legislative agenda was stacking up.


Both men suffered last fall as the health care debate dragged on, with Obama’s approval ratings taking a hit and Reid cutting deals to line up all 60 Democratic senators to get a bill passed. At times Obama questioned Reid’s approach, but he ultimately trusted that he knew his caucus better than the president did. And Reid ultimately got the job done, passing a health care bill in a dramatic Christmas Eve vote hours before Obama jetted off to Hawaii with his family for the holidays.


Weeks later, Republican Scott Brown shocked Democrats from the White House on down when he won the special Massachusetts election and stripped Reid of a 60-seat, filibuster-proof Senate majority.


Those who know Obama and Reid say their relationship hasn’t been strained by a tough year of legislating.


“Over the year, both the president’s and the White House’s respect for leader Reid has grown,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.. .). “When Harry speaks, the president listens.”

 

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B y CAROL E. LEE

 

To read more: POLITICO (2/18/2010)


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