Politico is leading its site with a story headlined, "Reid to liberals: back off," a message that's sure to raise the hackles of those who are pressuring moderate Senate Democrats not to stand in the way of President Obama's budget.
Here's the Politico lead-in:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that liberal groups targeting moderate Democrats with ads should back off, saying pressure from the left wing of his party won't be helpful to enacting legislation.
"I think it's very unwise and not helpful," Reid said Friday morning. "These groups should leave them alone. It's not helpful to me. It's not helpful to the Democratic Caucus."
Reid, who said he hadn't seen or heard the ads, added that "most of [the groups] run very few ads -- they only to do it to get a little press on it."
MoveOn.org and Americans United for Change, the labor-backed organization that serves as the White House's chief third-party operation, have started separate ad campaigns targeting moderate House and Senate Democrats to back Obama's budget. A number of liberal activists have expressed concerns about a group of 16 Senate Democratic moderates who have been meeting in an attempt to bolster their influence.
There is some very important context missing from Politico's write-up -- namely that Reid's comments are kabuki theater.
One of Harry Reid's jobs as majority leader is to stick up for his caucus. It is certainly very difficult for him to publicly endorse ads that target his own members.
That said, if Reid didn't want Americans United to be running ads against those moderate Dems, the ads would not be running. AU is more than "the White House's chief third-party operation," as Politico dubs it -- just four months ago, before Obama was inaugurated, AU was the chief third-party operation of the Democratic leadership in Congress, and important figures in Reid/Pelosi circles continue to be deeply involved in the group's strategy.
So yes, when asked about the ads in a public setting, Reid calls them unhelpful. But actions speak louder than words -- the ads ran, and on the substance, Reid has not been an ally of the "centrists" as they try to hatchet away at Obama's budget.
Moreover, as the Politico piece notes further down, Reid even threw a light-hearted barb at those very Dems: "Some people of course go to those meetings [of "centrist" Dems] so they can issue a press release back home that'll make them appear more moderate."
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