Harry Reid in deep trouble: Mason-Dixon

Until recently, few Republicans had wanted to challenge Harry Reid for his Senate seat in Nevada, as Reid had built a huge warchest and had expected to use it to coast to victory.  New polling, however, shows that Reid is quite vulnerable even with his campaign coffers stuffed to the brim.  Danny Tarkanian, a relative newcomer to Nevada politics, has an eleven-point lead on Reid in the latest Mason-Dixon polling in Nevada, and the state GOP chairwoman also leads Reid:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trailing a top Republican challenger by 11 points ahead of next year’s election, according to a new poll.

The Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey, reported Sunday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, showed GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian leading Reid by 49 percent to 38 percent in Nevada.

Tarkanian is a former basketball player for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and recently announced his candidacy.

The new poll also showed Sue Lowden, chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party and a possible candidate, leading Reid by 45 percent to 40 percent.

The shock may come from an incumbent unable to get even 40% of the vote in a state he’s represented for 22 years.  Incumbents whose numbers drop below 50% are usually considered vulnerable but not sure bets to lose office.  When it drops to 38%, that usually means career counseling and imminent retirement.

Under any other circumstances, that’s what Reid would do, but he can’t afford to retire now.  He would be the second Democratic Senate Majority Leader in a row to get thrown out of office by his own constituents (Tom Daschle got a compulsory retirement from South Dakotans), and he can’t allow that to happen by default with a retirement.  The embarrassment would permanently damage the Democratic agenda in the Senate and take what little luster remains of the Obama administration. The Democrats have to fight for Reid, which makes the stakes even higher for them — and the embarrassment even worse if he loses.

Will Reid try to save himself by retreating on ObamaCare and cap-and-trade?  Normally I’d guess yes, but I’m not sure that Reid will get the luxury of listening to his constituents.  If he wants a big Democratic Party rescue, he’ll need the national interests pushing for both big agenda items, especially the unions and the hard-Left organizers.  Without them, he’s sunk, big warchest or not.  Also, he’s probably boxed into the Obama agenda thanks to his actions this year and the yoke he shares with Nancy Pelosi and Obama.  It’s probably too late to salvage independents in Nevada already.

What happens if Reid loses?  Dick Durbin (D-IL) would almost certainly take the helm from Reid, which may not be a good outcome for either Republicans or Democrats.  Nevadans apparently believe that they can get addition through subtraction, however, and Reid looks likely to exit after 2010, barring some electoral miracle in his state — a very expensive miracle that might soak up all of the money needed to fight other midterm battles.