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Reid Encouraging Dorgan, Others to Seek DNC Chairmanship

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is encouraging Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), among others, to seek the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, in an attempt to help the party rebuild its image with heartland voters.

Dorgan, who will serve as one of Reid’s key lieutenants next year, handily won re-election in November in a state that overwhelmingly voted for President Bush.

The North Dakota Democrat would not address the subject when asked late Wednesday afternoon to comment on his interest. But a Reid spokesperson confirmed that a conversation took place.

“Senator Reid has reached out to several candidates who are articulate messengers for the party and are proven effective leaders,” the spokesperson said.

Reid’s endorsement would give Dorgan a significant boost in the wide open race to replace outgoing DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Several other Democrats such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Martin Frost (Texas) are either openly campaigning for the position or are said to be interested in it. Many of these candidates will head to Florida this weekend for a meeting of the Association of State Democratic Chairs. The new chairman will officially be chosen in February.

The next DNC chairman will be responsible for rebuilding the party in the wake of the November elections, in which Republicans not only secured a second presidential term but also made gains in the House and Senate. Competing liberal and conservative factions in the party are trying to persuade a move in their respective directions before the 2006 election season.

By reaching out to Dorgan it appears Reid favors a dual chairmanship structure to run the party’s political operation. In 1995, a co-chairmanship was created by former President Bill Clinton, who selected Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Donald Fowler to head the committee. As general chairman, Dodd served as the DNC’s chief spokesman, while Fowler in his capacity as national chairman handled the committee’s day-to-day operations. Dorgan would serve in a similar role that Dodd did at the DNC.

Dorgan considered running for Minority Whip last month following Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s (S.D.) defeat, which propelled Reid into the top Democratic job in the Senate.

Less than three weeks ago, another red state Democrat, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, withdrew his name from consideration for the position, fueling speculation that he is interested in seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Since being elected by his colleagues last month to lead them in the 109th Congress, Reid has said it is imperative for Democrats to rebuild bridges back to middle America, an area of the country that Republicans have established as a reliable political stronghold.

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