Harry Reid spoke to CNN about the possibility of a brokered convention
"These races go on for a long long time," the Senate Minority Leader told CNN
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the Democratic race for president could drag on for months – and possibly to the Democratic National Convention in July.
In an interview with CNN, Reid said that the race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton shows no signs of dying down, even as the former secretary of state had hoped the upcoming Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary would be her launching pad to the Democratic nomination.
“These races go on for a long long time,” Reid said. When asked if that included a brokered convention, he responded “Sure, seriously some of the old conventions produced some good people.”
Reid also said, “It would be kind of fun.”
Reid’s comments reflect the party establishment’s growing uncertainty about Clinton’s viability and lingering questions about whether she can hold off the Sanders surge. But Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she sees a contested convention as unlikely.
“I do think that this will continue to be a robust primary that will play out over the course of the next several months,” Wasserman Schultz told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” Thursday. “But there were predictions of a brokered convention, a fight that would go all the way to the convention, in 2008, if you recall, Jake, and that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because this was wrapped up in a timely process through the normal primary schedule, and I think that will be the case here.”
In the wide-ranging interview in his office, Reid raised concerns about both Sanders and the Clinton camp, criticizing the Vermont independent’s proposal to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for his policy ideas. And he ridiculed Clinton’s campaign for suggesting that 80 percent of the Nevada electorate is white, suggesting that her team was out-of-step with his state’s ethnic diversity.
“Well, it appears to me they’ve been reading one of the old yearbooks from my high school,” said Reid, 76. “They’re way behind the times.”
Reid spoke just days before the next presidential contest, which will take place in his home state of Nevada on February 20. Coming off a huge victory in New Hampshire, Sanders has been spending big bucks on TV both in English and in Spanish, while adding at least 50 staffers and 11 offices in the state.
Reid, who is neutral in the race, said that his state will be a toss-up, a potential warning to Clinton who had hoped that the Sanders bubble would burst after New Hampshire.
“I think it’ll be very close,” said Reid, who still runs the state’s political machine even as he prepares to retire at year’s end.
Reid added: “Clinton won one of the states already, Sanders won another state already, there’s one more state, Nevada, then South Carolina. No matter what happens in Nevada or South Carolina, the race is going to go on.”
Reid: Trump ‘reminds me of me’
Just as Reid is paying close attention to the Democratic race, he’s not afraid to lay out his views of the Republican side as well. And the blunt-speaking Nevada Democrat, who usually lays out brutal attacks against his political enemies, offered a surprising take on the GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump, saying the two are relatable.
“He’s a person who is authentic,” Reid said. “You may not agree with his authenticity but he’s authentic. People like that. He speaks his mind, which reminds me of me once in a while. I think that’s something that’s refreshing. He just says whatever he thinks is appropriate. I think some of the stuff is not so good but he does that. People identify with that. It wouldn’t sell very well with Democrats but he’s selling pretty well with Republicans.”
Reid declined to handicap Trump’s chances against the eventual Democratic nominee, but he pushed back hard on Marco Rubio, ridiculing the Florida senator for consistently saying that Democrats are terrified to run against him.
“Ha, ha,” Reid chuckled when asked if Democrats were worried about Rubio. “He came in third in one election, in Iowa. He came in fifth in New Hampshire. I’m not quaking in my boots I’ll tell you that.”
Attack ads threaten Clinton’s chances
Exit polls out of New Hampshire showed Clinton badly damaged over questions over trustworthiness, and Reid said there’s a reason for that: The influx of attack ads trying to “denigrate” Clinton.
“The Koch brothers and all their minions that are not only spending huge amounts of money trying to denigrate Hillary Clinton, but other candidates we have around the country,” Reid said. “You guys don’t do a very good job of reporting about that.”
Asked if that ad money would be detrimental to Clinton in a fall campaign, Reid said: “Of course, of course – it already is. Why do you think her numbers are changed around? Because of all the millions of dollars spent against her. That’s been so unfair.”
Still, Reid said he thought Sanders or Clinton could beat the GOP nominee – and he downplayed concerns from moderates in his party that Sanders’ socialist views would be devastating for down-ticket races.
“Whoever wins the election, and you know it’s going to go on for a while, as I’ve already indicated, we’re, it’ll turn out fine,” Reid said.
With his thumb and index finger extended, he said: “My worry is this small compared to any Republican that sees either Trump or (Ted) Cruz being their nominee.”
Reid on Sanders’ tax plan: Let’s leave the middle-class alone
Unlike Clinton, Reid would not say if Sanders’ plan to create a single-payer health care system is unfeasible, saying, “anything is possible.” But he pushed back on Sanders’ proposal to raise taxes across the board, including the middle-class, to pay for his sweeping domestic policies.
“Well I’m a big fan of having the richest of the rich pay more, and the sad part about it is that they don’t mind paying more, it’s just the only people in America that don’t believe they should pay more are the Republicans in Congress,” Reid said. “Republicans around the country, the vast majority agree with me. So I’m in favor of doing that, but let’s leave the middle class alone–they’re really struggling.”
Iowa ‘doesn’t represent America’
Despite Sanders’ close-second place finish in Iowa and resounding victory in New Hampshire, Reid said the first test will be in Nevada, given the ethnic makeup of the state – with its large influx of Latinos – makes it more representative of the Democratic coalition.
“Iowa doesn’t represent America,” Reid said. “New Hampshire, first of all very few people live there, and Iowa and New Hampshire are basically white states. Nevada is part of the Great West.”
Reid added that Iowa and New Hampshire should “absolutely not” have such power in choosing the parties’ nominees.
“That’s why I pushed hard for Nevada and South Carolina so that then we go across the country after we get out of these states,” Reid said. “But previously we never, we never stepped foot in Nevada or South Carolina. We did it all in New Hampshire or Iowa – that was wrong.”
As he winds down his three-decade Senate career, Reid has made it a top goal to keep his Senate seat in Democratic hands, bring his party back to power into the chamber and help elect a Democratic president. But, he also knows his limitations. He suffered a brutal eye injury last fall, leaving him blind in his right eye.
Asked how his eye was doing now, Reid dead-panned: “Still blind.”