Nevada’s Reid, Dodd gauge support as possible successors to Daschle | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada’s Reid, Dodd gauge support as possible successors to Daschle

MELISSA B. ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut are gauging support for possible runs for Senate Democratic leader if Tom Daschle of South Dakota leaves the post to run for president.

Daschle has not said if he will seek the nomination in 2004, nor has he indicated whether he would relinquish his leadership post should he make a bid for the White House. In 1996, Republican Bob Dole resigned from the Senate, where he was majority leader, to run unsuccessfully for president.

Reid, 63, a third-term senator who is assistant Democratic leader, has been open about his interest in succeeding Daschle and had planned to telephone colleagues before Congress convenes in January, said a Reid supporter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Reid stepped up the effort after learning that Dodd also was calling Democratic senators, the supporter said. Reid was in Nevada Wednesday, and his office declined comment.

Daschle has said that when and if he steps down, Reid “deserves” the job. But he has also promised not to take sides in a leadership race.

Reid was widely credited with persuading Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., to leave the Republican Party last year, turning control of the Senate over to Democrats. Reid promised Jeffords he could serve as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on which Reid was the senior Democrat.

Dodd, a four-term senator who challenged Daschle for leader in 1995 and lost by a single vote, told reporters this week that colleagues have approached him, asking if he would be interested in the leader’s job were Daschle to step down.

“I’ve talked to people; some people have called,” Dodd acknowledged.

Marvin Fast, Dodd’s spokesman, said Wednesday that such discussions have not gone beyond casual conversations to gauge the level of support Dodd could expect in a possible leadership campaign.

“That really is all there is to this at this time,” Fast said. “Would Senator Dodd consider a possible leadership position? Obviously he wouldn’t rule it out, but these are hypothetical questions at best and really nothing more.”

Asked whether Dodd was seeking commitments of support, Fast declined comment.

One aide to a Senate Democrat who is familiar with Dodd’s calls and spoke on condition of anonymity said Dodd has initiated contacts with senators but has stopped short of seeking outright commitments.

Joe Shoemaker, spokesman for Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said that both Reid and Dodd have contacted Durbin over the past week.

Reid told Durbin he wanted to succeed Daschle in the event of a vacancy, Shoemaker said. He said Dodd reached Durbin in Mexico about the leadership issue but did not know specifically what was discussed.

On Tuesday, Dodd also called Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who supported him in 1995, but Baucus would now support Reid in a leadership race, a Baucus aide said.

Jude McCartin, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Reid and Dodd also contacted Bingaman this week seeking support.