U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada backed a losing horse in the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Former presidential candidate Howard Dean was elected unanimously to the post Saturday after driving other candidates—including one recruited by Reid—out of the race.
Reid and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi were seen as leading the opposition to Dean after they lured former U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana into an abortive bid for the job. Roemer, like Reid an abortion opponent, attracted support from some unusual places (like christianity.com) for a Democrat but not in party circles. He was able to round up only four votes. In the end, he pulled out of the race.
Dean responded to the Reid/ Pelosi activity by turning the other cheek. When he was asked on Meet the Press about Reid’s recent comment that he might be able to support conservative Antonin Scalia for U.S. chief justice, Dean started with praise for the Nevadan: “Well, first of all, I like Harry Reid a lot. He’s a straight shooter, and I think he’s going to be a good leader. I disagree with him on this one. I think Antonin Scalia ought not to be on the Supreme Court.”
Dean met with Reid and Pelosi in Pelosi’s office for 20 minutes two days before he became party chairman. As the vote neared and Dean emerged as the only contender still standing, party leaders like Bill Clinton called for a closing of ranks.
“We’ve got to be united,” Clinton said. “We’ve got to support Howard Dean, we’ve got to support Harry Reid, we’ve got to support Nancy Pelosi. We’ve got to stop beating on each other and redirect our fire toward the people we disagree with.”
After the election, Dean included a bow to Reid and Pelosi in his remarks.
“We need to set the agenda,” Dean said. “And we’re going to work with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and our Democratic governors and local elected officials to do just that. I met with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid this past week, and we are looking forward to standing together in the battles ahead.”
Some party leaders expressed a hope that Dean would concentrate on party building and let congressional leaders be the party’s spokespersons, but Dean made no public pledges to go along with the idea.