“I’m just who I am, O.K.?” Reid told me before Christmas. “I didn’t take lessons on how to speak on television, and I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about who I am. I don’t like to read stuff about me, but I’ve become accustomed to it: you know, ‘Reid misspeaks.’ I’d rather people were saying, ‘Oh, that guy is a golden-tongued devil.’ ” He paused. “I have no regret over calling Greenspan a political hack. Because he was. The things you heard me say about George Bush? You never heard me apologize about any of them. Because he was. What was I supposed to say? I called him a liar twice. Because he lied to me twice.”

Manley, who was sitting nearby in Reid’s Capitol office, raised his hand to respectfully revise and extend the senator’s remarks. “Just for the record, he did apologize for the loser comment,” he said.

“Yes, but not because he wasn’t a loser,” Reid countered. “It’s because I shouldn’t have said that to a group of kids.” It was a Las Vegas high-school civics class…

He said he thought the White House erred in trying to win the support of Olympia Snowe, the Republican senator from Maine, for a health care compromise. “As I look back it was a waste of time dealing with her,” he said, “because she had no intention of ever working anything out.” And while making clear that he was not complaining, he said Obama may have been asking for too much in his first year. “I personally wish that Obama had a smaller agenda,” he said. “It would be less work.”…

“He is vulnerable because he is living in a center-right state and he’s lost touch with the people who put him there,” says Sue Lowden, another prospective Republican challenger, a former television news anchor in Las Vegas who was the No. 2 runner-up for Miss America in 1973 (she was Miss New Jersey). Reid has been in public life in Nevada since he joined the State Assembly in 1968. “I think there’s Reid fatigue,” Jon Ralston, the political columnist for The Las Vegas Sun, told me. As if that were not enough, there could be two Reids on the ballot this fall: his son, Rory, is running for governor. No one in the Harry Reid camp is happy about this; Harry Reid’s voice dropped to an even more imperceptible level than usual when I inquired if he asked Rory to sit this one out. “Well, I’ll talk about anything except my son,” he said. “I’m not going to do that. He’s been a wonderful son, great example to his brothers and sister. He didn’t ask my permission to run, and I didn’t think he needed to get it.”