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Kasim Reed's Stock Rises as Georgia's Demographics Shift

(Moses Robinson/Getty Images for NBCUniversal)
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has made a name for himself as a Democratic surrogate, but back home in Georgia, he is know for being willing to work across the aisle to get things done.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - At some point in the next few years, national Democrats will be searching for a candidate to run for statewide office in Georgia.

Among the names at the top of their recruitment list is first-term Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Reed is a pugnacious partisan on the national stage, often appearing on "Meet the Press" as a fierce Obama surrogate. One recent Sunday, he railed against the GOP vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, and aggressively took on Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

But back at home, he is held in high esteem by Republicans from the governor's mansion to the statehouse as a man who can work with them to get things done.

They see him as someone who is willing to put partisanship aside to solve big problems such as ballooning pensions or work to get important projects moving, such as expanding the Port of Savannah. And even in their partisan eyes, that makes him a rising star.

"He's seen as one of the few legitimate Democratic candidates for higher office in Georgia," said influential Peach State Republican strategist Joel McElhannon.

"He'll be a formidable adversary," McElhannon said. "But, for now, he is a good friend."

Reed has a lot of friends here in Charlotte, too. Leaning against a wall in a conference room one morning this week before a panel discussion, California Attorney General Kamala Harris greeted him with a huge smile and a hug.

The mayor, who is favored to win re-election in 2013, has a languid southern charm about him. Even when he gets animated - and he can get very animated talking about the future of the Democratic Party - there's still a paced deliberativeness in his words.

On the panel, Reed talks about national politics. He makes the case that Democrats have better ideas when it comes to governing, but are scared of the tough fight.

"I happen to believe that Republicans, verifiably, do a terrible job at governing," he said. "But when they come to fight, they have every knife, gun, nuclear weapon and all of the rest!"

In TV appearances, Reed brings the knife. But Republicans said that doesn't mean he can't cut a deal back at home. Before he was mayor, Reed was a legislator in the state House and state Senate. That shaped him.

"I've never viewed Republicans as martians," he said in an interview. "I just don't come to the table with that kind of baggage."

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