Reid: I have the votes to become minority leader
LAS VEGAS – Democratic Sen. Harry Reid said Wednesday he has the necessary votes to succeed Tom Daschle as his party’s Senate leader, pledging to bring his brand of inclusiveness to the national scene.
“I’ve worked hard these past six years to try to work with everyone in the state,” said Reid, who enjoyed the support of one in four Nevada Republicans in cruising to re-election to a fourth term Tuesday night.
“Now is the time for everybody to come together. We’ve had an election. The people have spoken,” he said.
Reid said he has secured support from at least 30 of the 43 Democratic senators who will return to Congress with him in January. His bid for the leadership post comes after Daschle lost his seat in South Dakota.
He told reporters outside the federal courthouse in downtown Las Vegas that he spoke with Daschle early Wednesday when it became clear Daschle had lost a close race to Republican Rep. John Thune.
“That was a very difficult conversation for me. Tom Daschle and I have worked together for 22 years, but the people of South Dakota have also spoken,” Reid said.
Reid’s top rival for the job, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, said Wednesday he would not seek the post and praised Reid for his work as minority whip. Dodd said the Democrats need to be united.
“We need to pull together, understand what happened last night,” Dodd told CNN. “This was a very profound election. It had a profound effect on the country, but also on our Democratic Party. We better take stock of what occurred here, assess why we are not connecting as well as we should be with the American public.”
Reid pledged he would work with President Bush, who telephoned him early Wednesday.
“The president has reached out to me, and I appreciate that very much,” Reid said. “Yesterday, I was working against him, and today I’m working with him as part of my responsibilities.”
Facing an easy re-election bid, Reid had focused nearly all his energy to campaigning the final weeks on behalf of John Kerry in Nevada. Reid also donated $1 million of his $8 million campaign fund to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to help other Democrats.
“I really am enthusiastic about the new year,” Reid said. “I’m not Tom Daschle. I’m Harry Reid. And I’m going to do everything I can to put the kind of leadership that I feel that we’ve had in the state of Nevada, where I have worked with progressives, people not so progressive, and brought about a unity in the state.”
Reid said he will utilize the strengths of his Democratic colleagues, praising newly elected Barack Obama of Illinois and Ken Salazar of Colorado.
“I have a lot of very talented people in the Senate, in the Democratic caucus,” Reid said. “I’m going to call upon them. This is not going to be a one-man show.”