“At the end of the day, this is a decision that’s going to be made by Reid; who he anoints is going to have two or three steps up on everyone else,” a senior Democratic official said.
Nevada Democratic insiders acknowledged that Reid does not have total confidence that Berkley is the best statewide pick.
The seven-term Congresswoman is, according to Nevada political observers, the perfect Representative of the 1st district that encompasses Las Vegas. She is an advocate of liberal causes and a champion of the gaming industry. Still, some worry that Berkley, who embodies her hometown so much that she wears gambling-themed jewelry, may not appeal to the conservative, Mormon electorate.
“The big question is whether northern Nevada voters will be comfortable voting for a Jewish woman from Las Vegas,” one Nevada political follower said.
However, Las Vegas and the surrounding area in southern Nevada make up an enormous share of the overall statewide vote totals.
Berkley raised nearly $2.2 million for her re-election last cycle and said that while she has not been elected statewide, she still holds a high profile and strong name ID in the state. She acknowledged, however, that winning a Senate race would be an uphill battle, as it was for Reid in 2010. But Nevada will gain one House seat in reapportionment, and if Berkley’s district lines are significantly changed when redistricting is done this summer, she may be swayed to leap for the statewide bid.
While potential candidates hang behind the scenes, so far Reid has also largely stayed out of the process.
Berkley was a staunch supporter of Reid on the campaign trail during his battle last year against GOP nominee Sharron Angle for a fifth term. It wasn’t a new assignment for Berkley, who worked on Reid’s first state Assembly race in 1968 when she was a high school senior. The two remain “strong political allies and friends,” Berkley said.
Reid spokesman Jon Summers said, “There’s a path to victory” in Nevada, particularly because President Barack Obama carried the state with 55 percent in 2008 and will be on the top of the ticket again in 2012. And while Berkley mulls her decision, Reid will “give her the space she needs to make the best decision for her and for the people of Nevada.”
DSCC spokesman Matt Canter said in a statement that the party is “well-positioned to pick up the Nevada Senate seat” and wouldn’t indicate the committee’s preference.
But Republicans pounced on Cecil’s visit, charging it was a telltale sign that Democrats are worried Berkley would not be the best choice to run against Heller, who announced his entry into the race this week.
“Given the fact that national Democratic operatives recently made a highly publicized recruiting trip out to Nevada, it sounds like they don’t have a great deal of confidence in a Shelley Berkley candidacy,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We’d be curious to hear their thoughts of why that is.”
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