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Reid, Back to Work, Puts Fracas Behind Him

The GOP operative agreed, saying Democrats demonstrated a remarkable sense of loyalty to Reid. “It’s the blind loyalty really. You’d expect that most Members would have taken a sincere look at the comments ... but there appears to be no contemplation at all. They just all rushed out [and] defended him.”

The lack of dissension may also be sheer dumb luck. Although having the situation erupt during a Congressional recess initially made it front-page news, the recess reduced the chances that a member of the Democratic Conference would criticize Reid because Senators were not walking the halls of the Capitol being bombarded by questions about his behavior.

“If he had all 60 members in D.C., the chances of having one of them saying something impolitic are probably a lot higher,” the GOP aide said.

Reid’s ability to quickly draw on support from civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton also aided in tamping down the spread of the controversy. Reid had a “reservoir of goodwill in the African American community, and had a strong record to stand on,” all of which made it possible for Sharpton and others to quickly back him, the Democratic aide argued.

The GOP operative agreed, arguing that black community “spokesmen were all pretty aligned with Reid.”

While Reid’s team may be able to take some pride in their ability to right his ship within days, they are also to some degree benefiting from his reputation for saying outrageous things, which may have lessened the incident’s longevity. “He has a rich history of bone-headed gaffes, so the prospect of him saying something completely outrageous is not as far-fetched as for some people ... that does help him,” one Republican argued.

Even if Reid is starting to put the actual gaffe behind him, the aftershocks may linger, darkening an already grim electoral landscape for the Senate’s top Democrat.

Data from two independent polls released Wednesday shows that the controversy over his comments are a cause for concern in his camp, but hardly the only reason Reid is hurting politically.

In a survey conducted Jan. 11, Rasmussen Reports found that more than half — 55 percent — of voters said they have closely followed the controversy over the racial comments Reid made about Obama. Another 24 percent said they followed the story somewhat closely.

Public Policy Polling also released some preliminary results from a Nevada poll coming out today. The firm found that by a 48 percent to 39 percent margin, Reid’s black constituents don’t think he should step down from his leadership position.

However, PPP noted that the Majority Leader receives just 52 percent of the black vote against prospective Republican challengers Sue Lowden, a former state Republican party chairwoman, and Las Vegas real estate developer Danny Tarkanian — a poor result among a traditionally Democratic constituency.

According to Census data from 2008, African-Americans make up roughly 8 percent of Nevada’s population, lower than the 13 percent they make up of the national population. Hispanics are a much stronger political force in Nevada, making up nearly 26 percent of the population.

Reid, however, cannot afford to lose any support among his Democratic base, which he needs to turn out in force in November.

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