As one of the GOPs top targets in 2010, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been making an aggressive push to improve his standing at home. Hes been fundraising, traveling the state and making the case to Nevadans that he has the seniority and clout to keep delivering.
But Reid may have found the ultimate trump card: President Barack Obama.
The administrations decision last week to kill a proposed nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain is the latest in a string of moves the White House has taken to help Reid in his runup to next years election.
A Democratic Senate aide said Reids success in getting the administration to kill off the controversial waste project shows his influence in this administration, and the fact that they rely on him for so many of the things they need makes it easier for him to get things for Nevada.
As part of that narrative, Reid has flooded the state with some $1.6 billion in earmarks and economic stimulus funds since Obama assumed office. And, he has hosted high-profile visits from administration officials, including Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in April to tour a job-training center and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in May to announce $300 million in stimulus funds being sent to the state.
Although neither visit was billed as a campaign stop, both secretaries came at the behest of Reid and both focused their remarks on his role in the states economic recovery.
It is more than accurate to say that both Solis and Salazar came at Reids request, a Democrat familiar with the situation said.
Obama is also headlining a Nevada fundraiser for Reid on May 26, an event at which Reids campaign hopes to raise significant campaign contributions and also to re-enforce their message that Reid is closely tied to an immensely popular president.
But perhaps even more critical than Obamas visit was the administrations announcement this week that it was zeroing out funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project a decades-long effort that was opposed by virtually every major Nevada politician and was unpopular with a majority of the states residents.
An August poll by the Las Vegas Review-Journal found that 58 percent of Nevadans opposed the governments nuclear waste disposal plans at Yucca Mountain, and 60 percent of Nevada voters said the issue would influence their vote when it came to the presidential election.
Las Vegas-based political columnist Jon Ralston said that these days Yucca Mountain isnt exactly a top priority for Nevada, except in the minds of environmentalists and those who feel strongly about energy issues.
But Ralston said Reids role in helping to shut off funding for the facility will be useful to his re-election bid. Reid, Ralston said, can use the issue to argue why its important for a state with a small population to have someone in a powerful position in Washington to watch out for Nevadas interests.