Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Depose Harry Reid' Is Rallying Cry for GOP Senate Candidates: Good Strategy?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Depose Harry Reid' Is Rallying Cry for GOP Senate Candidates: Good Strategy?

Article excerpt

In their first debate earlier this month, Pat Roberts, the embattled Republican senator from red-state Kansas, took out his rhetorical shotgun and aimed it at his challenger, Independent Greg Orman:

"My opponent wants you to believe he's an independent. He is not. He is a liberal Democrat by philosophy. He has given thousands of dollars to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and, listen to this, listen to this, Harry Reid!"

Senator Roberts mentioned Senator Reid 17 times. But the Democrat from Nevada, who leads the US Senate, is unknown to many voters - raising questions about whether firing off rounds about Reid will be about as powerful as using rubber bullets.

Republicans view Reid as a tyrant, blocking the GOP agenda and doing Mr. Obama's bidding. From Kentucky to Alaska, Republican Senate candidates argue that a vote for a Democrat (or independent, in Mr. Orman's case) is a vote for Reid. Cast your ballot for the Republican, and you can flip the Senate and dump the dictator, they say.

It's a strategy reminiscent of 2010, when Republicans turned disapproval of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) of California into a national issue, helping the GOP win control of that chamber. But experts have their doubts about Reid as an effective weapon.

"Most voters do not know who leads the Senate. You're lucky if they know which party is in control. So trying to make a contest a referendum on a particular party leader is a tough sell," says Stephen Voss, associate professor of political science at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

On the other hand, he says, even uninformed voters have "a basic impulse" to seek balance in institutions. "When you have a Democratic president, they can sense that they need to put someone who is more conservative into Congress to counterbalance that," Professor Voss says.

That could work in a state like Kentucky, which twice rejected candidate Obama and where many Democrats have conservative leanings, says Voss.

Certainly that's what Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky hopes. The five-term incumbent, who leads the GOP minority in the Senate, often equates Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes with Reid (though even more often with Obama). …

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