Some high level Democratic Party political insiders have shared with TWN details of a potential shift in vectors for several of the major political stars in that party.
First of all, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, whom most give high marks for the manner in which he has stewarded the Dems in the Senate despite the absence of a clear Democratic Party chief, has sent private signals to Senator Hillary Clinton and other stalwarts of the party that he “would like to” step down from his post in early 2009. Reid has not stated definitively that he will — but he apparently prefers “whipping” the Party from behind and the side rather than serving as commander-in-chief on the Senate floor.
What Reid is offering Senator Hillary Clinton is his total, robust support to succeed him as Senate Majority Leader if she elects not to pursue the Democratic nomination for President.
Many are realizing that the electoral map is not something one can wave a magic wand over and reverse the views of 42% of Americans who believe that they know Hillary Clinton well and have strongly formed views of her and will not vote for her under any conditions — according to recent polls. Reports are that Senator Clinton herself knows this and that her own enthusiasm for running actually trails that of her husband, her advisors, and her staff — whose enthusiasm for the race is ranked in that order with Hillary the least enthusiastic.
Some Republican Senators have been privately queried — not by Reid but by high level Republican Party funders (Northeast Republicans) who are frustrated with Bush, unsure of McCain, and considering supporting alternative candidates like Mark Warner — what they think of Hillary Clinton serving as either Senate Democratic Leader, either in the Majority or Minority. Senators such as Senator Chuck Hagel, Arlen Specter, and Lindsay Graham have reportedly said that they would welcome Senator Clinton in such a role, albeit from the other side of the aisle.
The other bit of change in the Democratic Party game has been the emergence of Nevada and South Carolina as important gambits for the Democratic presidential bid contenders.
The Iowa Caucus now leads as the first Democratic Party contest followed by Nevada with the second caucus. New Hampshire will still lead with the first primary but following these earlier caucuses, and South Carolina will immediately follow New Hampshire.
This line-up of races puts enormous pressure on Hillary Clinton and any Northeastern Democrat. It’s the anti-Kerry plan, and might also be a resist-Hillary plan, if not a strategy to completely deter the campaign juggernaut she is building.
The clear winners from the new allignment of caucuses and primaries are candidates like Mark Warner and John Edwards. Edwards is out harnessing labor. He’s everywhere Labor is, and many fear that Mark Warner while appealing on paper has a lot of hurdles to overcome to get ready for prime time.
So, the Reid-Clinton dance around the Majority Leader position (if the Dems do take back the Senate) could be an attractive one for the New York Senator.
— Steve Clemons
UPDATE: Senator Reid’s blog envoy — who is part of the Reid press office — has called me this morning and asked that I post on this note that Senator Reid denies this case — and denies it in the strongest possible sense.
I respect Senator Reid greatly, but TWN will stand by the comments above for the time being as the sources involved are impeccable from my point of view. There are nuances in conversations and political intentions that often permit some to make offers while at the same time maintaining an option not to move. I can’t tell whether that is what is happening in this case with Senator Reid. But I want to respect his right to deny.
— Steve Clemons
UPDATE 2: Raw Story has secured a 100% denial from Senator Reid’s office regarding the story that Reid offered Hillary Clinton a “deal” regarding the Senate Democratic Caucus’s leadership. Washington — and powerful political players — are specialists in deniability.
Based on the conversations in which I have participated, I am standing my ground on the story; though i want to echo Raw Story‘s report that Senator Reid’s staff have denied the TWN report. Denials do matter, even when one expects denial more than affirmation on something like this. In any case, still sticking to it.
— Steve Clemons