Harry Reid’s retirement and the Democratic Party's future

After five terms in the Senate and eight years as majority leader, Harry Reid has announced his retirement and will not seek reelection in 2016.

After a terrible accident in December, Reid’s vision has become impaired, the key reason he cited in his decision to step down from the Senate.

There is no question that Reid was going to face a tough fight in 2016 to retain his seat.

And while I am in no way questioning the impact of this injury to Reid’s ability to perform his job and his quality of life, there is no question that Reid was going to face a tough fight in 2016 to retain his seat.

There is no question that Reid was going to face a tough fight in 2016 to retain his seat.

The tide in Nevada has been shifting Republican for quite some time, culminating in the GOP takeover of the Nevada legislature this past November. It is the first time that the governor, Senate majority leader and Assembly Speaker will have all been Republicans since 1929.

That kind of hostile environment will have made 2016 even more difficult for Reid as Nevada implements policies that run counter to key Democrat agenda points. Further, President Obama’s approval rating in Nevada is far lower than his national average. The latest polls available show that over 50% disapprove of the president’s performance in Nevada as compared to a disapproval rating in the mid 40s for the nation as a whole.

Furthermore, Reid is one of the Democrats most closely associated with President Obama’s health care law as he played a central role in pushing it through in 2010. This association is not one that was apt to help Reid in 2016. Polling on ObamaCare’s popularity from the fifth anniversary, which was incidentally earlier this week, shows that the law is still unpopular despite over 16 million Americans becoming newly insured. Fifty-two percent of likely voters view the law unfavorably, an increase from earlier this year when overall unfavorables fell below 50% for the first time since late 2013.

The fact that it is increasingly unlikely that we will get any sort of comprehensive immigration reform, or even piecemeal immigration reform for that matter, before 2016 also stood to hurt Reid in 2016. With an increasing Latino population, and one that fares worse than Latino populations in other West region states like California, Arizona and Colorado, Reid would’ve had to contend with years of failed immigration efforts. And with Sandoval likely to run himself, the challenge would’ve been even greater.

After a long, successful career in government, the challenges the Republicans pose in Nevada and across the nation and considering his injury, it makes perfect sense that Reid would decide to stand down in 2016.

Now speculation inevitably turns to who will lead the Democrats in the Senate going forward. Fingers point to Chuck Schumer, who had the following to say about Reid’s retirement, “Harry is one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. His character and fundamental decency are at the core of why he’s been such a successful and beloved leader. He’s so respected by our caucus for his strength, his legislative acumen, his honesty and his determination.”

I’m sure that we’ll know more soon on this front. Whoever ends up with the job, and Schumer is certainly a good candidate, they have a seriously uphill battle ahead of them.