This was not the best of days for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who found himself apologizing for having referred to candidate Barack Obama in private as a "light-skinned" black with no "Negro dialect," and then having to digest a new poll saying most Nevadans viewed him unfavorably and would elect any of his potential GOP opponents over him.
The quote from Reid, who at the time was officially neutral in the Democratic presidential nomination race, is in the new book "Game Change" -- an inside-the-campaigns chronicle of the 2008 election by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. But the book says Reid was enthusiastic about Obama:
"He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,' as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.
"I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments. I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama's legislative agenda. Moreover, throughout my career, from efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry to opposing radical judges and promoting diversity in the Senate, I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community."
The White House issued this statement from Obama this afternoon:
"Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed."
As for Reid's standing in the polls back home, where he is up for re-election this year, a survey conducted Jan. 5-7 by Mason-Dixon for the Las Vegas Journal-Review found that 52 percent regarded Reid unfavorably, 33 percent saw him favorably and 15 percent were neutral. In December, his unfavorable-to-favorable ratio was 49 percent to 38 percent.
Reid trails three potential Republican opponents, getting only about 4 in 10 voters against each of them..
Former Nevada GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden leads Reid 50 percent to 40 percent with 10 percent undecided.
Danny Tarkanian, a former UNLV basketball star and now in the real estate business, leads Reid 49 percent to 41` percent.
Former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle leads Reid 45 percent to 40 percent even though 42 percent of voters don't know her. (The margin of error is 4 points).
The poll said if the GOP primary were held today Tarkanian would lead Lowden by a statistically insignificant 28 percent to 26 percent with Angle getting 13 percent.
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