Several Democratic candidates in recent months have been hesitant to voice support for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who, if Democrats retain control of the Senate, must be reelected majority leader when Congress begins a new session next year.
Much like the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository he so opposes, Reid seems to be toxic.
Reid’s tenure as majority leader in the upper house of Congress has been notable for his iron-fisted control, which has drawn indignation from Republicans. However, in recent months, Reid has also been making headlines as a rabid, partisan attack dog for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. In July, Reid claimed—without any evidence—that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had paid no taxes for the past ten years. That claim was proved false last month when Romney released his 2011 tax return along with a letter from his tax advisers detailing his tax liability from 1990 and 2009.
Democrats remain cagey about Reid. For example, Politico reports Arizona Democratic candidate Richard Carmona “demurred” when asked about supporting Reid.
“You’re asking me who I’d vote for, and I don’t have a slate of candidates,” Carmona said. “I’ll look and see who the best one is, and then I’ll go ahead and support that person. Majority leaders change all the time at the whims of the Senate.”
Carmona’s refusal to back Reid must sting, given that the Reid-connected Majority PAC has spent more than $400,000 trying to get him elected and Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund has given him $10,000.
North Dakota Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp also was less than forthcoming with support for Reid.
“When I get to the Senate, I’ll make those decisions,” Heitkamp told the Hill in an interview. “Today my goal is to visit with North Dakotans, find out what their concerns are, tell them what I believe and what I think is important.”
Heitkamp later clarified the statement. "My response was more that the question is premature. We don't know if Harry Reid is running,” she added. “I assume that if Harry Reid is running again, he's going to be the only person running. I intend to be part of the Democratic caucus."
Indiana Democratic Senate candidate Joe Donnelly said in an AP interview, when asked if he would support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for majority leader, "I don't know who I'd support."
Asked again if he would consider voting for any Republican to lead the chamber, he said, "I'd consider voting for the best person."
The Weekly Standard reports Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia, when asked if he would vote for Reid, refused to answer the question.
Sen. Reid’s office did not return requests for comment, nor did any of the campaigns of the candidates listed above.
Manchin also hedged on the question of supporting Reid during his 2010 campaign—but supported Reid in the end.