Former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid says it’s too early to discount any of the Democratic presidential hopefuls — even those considering jumping in late in the game.
Reid, speaking to reporters before the Nevada State Democratic Party’s First In The West event at the Bellagio, called former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick a “very fine man” with “a great record” in his state and said that he has “a lot to sell.”
Patrick jumped into the presidential race Thursday, and while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not formally entered, he filed to run in Alabama’s Democratic presidential primary on Nov. 8 to meet an early filing deadline.
“I think it’s way too early to start crossing people off the list,” Reid said.
Asked about the “winnowing” function that the first two early nominating states — Iowa and New Hampshire — serve in narrowing the Democratic field, Reid dismissed the states’ importance.
“I think that you, the press, makes a bigger deal out of Iowa and New Hampshire than you should,” Reid said. “The press focuses on those two states and I think they do that to the detriment of our country.”
Still, Reid expressed a certain resignation that Iowa and New Hampshire will be the first two states to cast their presidential preferences, noting that Nevada has tried to change its position in the process.
“But I also accept the fact that, as I said earlier, I don't think it matters what people do there because it's not representative, any of those states, that is not representative of America,” Reid said.
Reid also rejected the notion that any candidate is too liberal for Nevada, which he repeatedly said is more representative of the nation’s demographics. About a third of Nevada’s population is Latino, and it has the fastest-growing Asian American and Pacific Islander population in the country.
“You can go back many, many decades. It’s always the same argument,” he said. “So, obviously, people are looking for reasons why people are doing better or worse in any given week. I think that it’s now very fluid who’s going to be our nominee.”
He also expanded on his views on Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare-for-all plan, which now includes a plan to first pass a public option that Americans could buy into before turning to a mandatory government-run, single-payer system. He has previously criticized Medicare-for-all as “too expensive” and said that Warren’s $22 trillion figure to implement it is “a large number to swallow.”
“Always understand Elizabeth Warren always has a plan, and I think what she’s talked about the last few days is indicative of how smart she is,” Reid told reporters on Sunday. “She's indicated that the first vote when she is president, the first vote on health care will be one that basically is the Obama health care plan with a public option.”
The former senator said Republicans will struggle to win Nevada regardless of whether the nominee is a more moderate or progressive Democratic. He pointed to recent Democratic victories in Virginia as evidence, noting it was a “real slap” to President Donald Trump.
A struggle doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a slam dunk for Democrats, though. Longtime Democratic operative Rebecca Lambe characterized Nevada — where Hillary Clinton beat Trump by just 2 percent of the popular vote in 2016 — as a solidly purple state.
“How concerned are we?” she said. “The reality is Nevada is a consummate battleground.”
But winning Nevada isn’t an end unto itself. Lambe pitched Nevada as a proving ground for how candidates will perform generally in the West.
“It's as much about paying attention to the early win, and it's also about which candidate is actually appealing to that coalition of voters because if they're appealing to that coalition of voters here, the likelihood is that they're going to be appealing to that coalition of voters elsewhere,” Lambe said.
Lambe also projected that as Nevada moves bluer in the wake of Democratic victories in 2016 and 2018, other Western states, like Arizona, will follow suit.
“It won't be too long until we start winning Texas,” Lambe said.