Thursday, March 01, 2007

Harry Reid's Office to Dems: Don't Work With Gordo

This is something you know goes on all the time, but it's still rather indigestive to see it in print:
Democratic staffs have been waved away from working too closely with Republican Sen. Gordon H. Smith of Oregon.

In a mid-February meeting of chiefs of staff, one person asked about cozying up to Smith, whose seat is one of the Democratic Party’s top four targets for 2008.

According to a participant, that aide was told not to worry about non-controversial matters where there’s an existing bipartisan partnership. But unless their bosses felt it necessary, pairing up on controversial issues should be avoided.

“Leadership has always frowned on working with Republicans who were vulnerable in an election cycle,” said a senior Democratic aide. “It’s not surprising they would have this type of discussion.”

The chiefs of staff meetings are led by senior aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose office declined to comment.
Yeah, I'll bet they did--because it makes him look more committed to backroom politics than good policy, and now it gives Smith an opportunity to whine about it (which he did in the piece), and also to claim he COULD be more moderate if the Democrats would stop refusing to work with him just to try to make him look bad. Unfortunately, based on this CQ article he'd have a point (at least on the second part, about the Dems).

I'm not naive; earlier this morning I was chatting with the Speaker's Office about whether the big Rainy Day/budget reform package deal (which we'll talk about a little later today) would loosen the noose any around Wayne Scott's neck for 2008. But from Merkley's people I got the right response: who cares; it's good for Oregon. (I also talked briefly to Mike Caudle, who will run against Scott next year; he's confident there's plenty of egregious stuff left to hit him on, and I agree). But even if I grudgingly allow that this is just part of politics as usual, this particular gambit has now blown up in their faces. We appreciate the idea, Harry, but you've got a leak in your meetings, and it just did the unthinkable and made Gordon Smith look like a victim. Thanks SO much.

Update, 4pm--
Small birds have given me some insight on what may have driven this "leak." Apparently there was some angst inside the Beltway that, as a fellow Mormon, Reid was going to try to "protect" Smith from a serious challenge. According to my sources, the idea here was to send a public message that the Senate Democrats would definitely be gunning for Smith. OK, maybe--but good lord, that was one ham-fisted way to get the message out. I can nearly guarantee Smith will use it as an excuse down the road.