WASHINGTON -- Want to make Harry Reid laugh? Ask him what he thinks about Scott Brown's chances of returning to the Senate.
The Senate majority leader takes the challenges Democrats face this election cycle quite seriously, even as he remains bullish about the party's prospects. He just isn't sweating Brown's efforts to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). In fact, the mere prospect of that happening left him laughing out loud during a recent interview, after HuffPost asked if the Republicans' ability to expand the Senate contest to some traditionally blue states made it more difficult for Democrats to hold red state seats.
HuffPost: Are you nervous that with Republicans expanding to Colorado, Michigan and New Hampshire, it will that take away [Democratic resources] from Arkansas?
Reid: New Hampshire?
HuffPost: They would like to think so.
HuffPost: You don't think Scott Brown will pull this one out?
Reid: Um ... We're doing fine in Michigan. We're doing fine in Iowa. Colorado, I think [Sen.] Mark Udall is just an exceptionally good candidate.
Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Republicans may be the ones chuckling in the end.
"I would bet that [Louisiana Democrat] Mary Landrieu or [Arkansas Democrat] Mark Pryor would wonder why Majority PAC is spending so much money in New Hampshire if Harry Reid really does feel that way," he said, referring to the Democratic super PAC, run by Reid ally Susan McCue, that's dedicated to holding the Senate. Dayspring also pointed out that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reserved $1 million in airtime in New Hampshire.
In a midterm cycle that's stacked against the Democrats, Reid says he's optimistic that his party will retain control -- and that he will keep the majority leader's post -- when the votes are counted in November. He's sanguine, in part, because of the caliber of the Democrats running in traditionally Republican states like Alaska, Georgia and even Mississippi, where Reid insisted that former Rep. Travis Childers has a chance at victory.
"Remember," Reid said, "they need to get six seats and they are not even close to that, especially with the fact that they are scrambling in Kentucky and Georgia."
The mobile nature of today's voters makes outcomes difficult to predict. And in the wake of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) unexpected loss, Reid said he no longer puts too much stock in polls (Cantor's own pollster had him up by 34 points).
"I've never been a big fan of polling," Reid said. "Common sense dictates if you're under 35, and you have a stationary phone, what's wrong with you? Because very few people have stationary phones anymore that are young. And with all the laws the way they are -- who you can call, who you can't call -- how do you get an accurate count? I don't think polls are very accurate."
At the center of the push-and-pull for control of the Senate is Kentucky, where Reid's daily dueling partner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is in a close race to retain his seat. McConnell's challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, had previously said she'd used a private fundraiser to press Reid on coal, but a tape of the event surfaced showing that not to be the case, at least not during her public remarks.
Reid said that Grimes has, in general, been upfront about her support for coal. "And I understand why she feels the way she does, just as I understand why [Sen. Heidi] Heitkamp (D-N.D.) feels that way about coal, [Sen. Joe] Manchin (D-W.Va.) feels that way about coal. I accept senators representing their states," Reid said.
But he saved his sharpest words for taking McConnell down a peg, rather than bolstering Grimes. He scoffed at McConnell's insistence that if he were in charge, the Senate would work longer hours and be more productive.
"That's interesting coming from a guy who tries to get out of here Thursday quicker than anyone else," Reid said.
And when asked how McConnell would operate as a majority leader, his response was downright icy.
"I don't even contemplate that," he said, with trademark brevity.
McConnell's office responded by pointing The Huffington Post to a lengthy speech he made about the various reforms he would make to the Senate.
Dayspring, meanwhile, dismissed Reid's forecast. "Most election prognosticators would disagree with soon-to-be Minority Leader Reid's assessment," he said, arguing that Democrats are on the defensive in 12 states. While Democrats individually may be keeping those races close, President Barack Obama remains deeply unpopular, the economic recovery remains weak and conservatives have the bulk of the outside cash.
That latter point has been an obsessive concern of Reid's. He has taken to admonishing the Koch brothers weekly on the Senate floor, calling them un-American and subversive to Democratic governance. He has also accused Republicans of being cultish in their adherence to the industrialist brothers and addiction to their cash.
Reid told The Huffington Post that he has not received a call from anyone at Koch Industries to back off his crusade or to hash out the matter away from the C-SPAN cameras. Nor does he quiver in fear over the Kochs' political prowess. The cash they've put into television ads targeting Democrats hasn't moved the dial in most cases, he argued.
"Take, for example, North Carolina," said Reid. "The Koch Brothers spent pushing $20 million against [Sen. Kay Hagan]. We followed that very closely. Her polls overall since last fall changed four tenths of one percent."
Confident as he is in the lead-up to the elections, Reid said that he is bothered by one factor that's out of his control. "Time is going so slowly," he complained.
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