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Reid Hires Senior Aides for ‘War Room’

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is beefing up the Democratic press operation by hiring two seasoned media aides to take the helm of a new rapid-response team.

To run the team, Reid has tapped Jim Manley, the long-time press secretary for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Phil Singer, the former top media aide for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Singer helped lead the operation that enabled Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to punch and counter-punch on the issues against President Bush.

In their new posts, Manley will serve as staff director and Singer as communications director of the newly formed Senate Democratic Communications Center, an entity that Reid hopes will be a permanent “war room” that can help the party counter the bully pulpits of the Republican-run White House, Senate and House.

“I will ensure that all Americans — from my rural hometown of Searchlight to the nation’s big cities — know the values and principles for which Democrats stand,” Reid said. “That is why I have formed an aggressive operation with the best talent in the country to spread the word and get the truth out.”

Reid is overhauling the critical area of message delivery, in which many observers say the Democrats have underperformed over the past four years.

While some Democrats have privately been concerned about Reid’s ability to deliver stinging sound bites on a regular basis in each 24-hour news cycle, his hiring of Manley and Singer suggests that he plans to take a tough approach to media relations and not shrink from the spotlight himself. Reid’s first major Sunday talk show appearance as Minority Leader is tentatively slated for Dec. 5 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In addition to Manley and Singer, Reid expects to hire up to 15 aides for the communications center, including a top Internet staffer and a daily “blogger” to keep pace with that increasingly high-profile corner of the World Wide Web. Tessa Hafen, Reid’s veteran press aide, will become press secretary within the communications center, focusing on issues of local interest to Nevada.

Manley, who has worked for Kennedy for 11 years, has many admirers on both sides of the aisle. He’s been Kennedy’s top press aide on most domestic policy issues and has a knack for explaining both complicated policy matters and the political context that shapes them.

Singer, for his part, helped run what is arguably the most aggressive press operation in the Senate. His four years with Schumer helped prepare him for the whirlwind of the Kerry campaign. Singer oversaw attacks on Bush-Cheney ’04, and each morning sent a daily memo to reporters filled with scorching attacks.

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