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Reid Hopeful for 2008 Legislative Success, Eager Not to Be ‘Face of the Party’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes that electoral pressures and a significantly weakened White House in its last throes will break a deadlock in the Senate next year and smooth the way for passage of some key legislative proposals in the runup to the 2008 elections. “I do have more hope for next year,” Reid said Thursday in a wide-ranging interview with Roll Call. Although Reid criticized Republicans for their loyalty to the Bush administration, he refused to offer any critique of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying he considers the veteran lawmaker a friend and that it would be inappropriate for either to attack the other. “I feel the two Leaders shouldn’t criticize each other,” Reid said. The top Democrat in the Senate also offered praise to retiring Minority Whip Trent Lott and said the Mississippi Republican’s presence will be missed in the chamber. “He was a dealmaker. … I’ll miss him a lot.” Reid also acknowledged that his position as the “face of the party” along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has hurt him in the polls in Nevada, but he said he expects to be in good shape for his re-election race in 2010. Reid argued that much of his dip in opinion polls over the past year stems from the fact that he and Pelosi have been in a constant political struggle with President Bush since they took over the majority following the 2006 elections, casting a partisan tint on his traditionally moderate persona back home. “Its hard for the people of the state of Nevada to accept me as a partisan person. … Reid versus Bush, that’s what my life is all about” right now, Reid said. But Reid predicted that Democrats’ eventual presidential nominee will “catch some of these spears that are thrown at me” and he should be able to make up any lost ground at home. “By the time the election comes in three years I’ll be fine,” Reid said. While Reid — the most powerful elected Mormon in the country’s history — declined to offer any advice to ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) in handling questions about his faith in the wake of the White House hopeful’s Thursday speech on the topic, he did lament the fact that the press and public has focused so much on the question of religion. “I know a lot of people are focusing on his religion … [but] I’m a firm believer that religion is a personal thing” and should not become an election issue, Reid said. See Monday’s edition of Roll Call for more details from Reid’s interview.

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