The most vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrat in 2016 is Minority Leader Harry Reid, according to the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
In its first batch
of Senate ratings, issued last month, the center, whose director is University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, hinted that Reid, first elected to the Senate in 1986, is "probably the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent" in the next cycle
of Senate races.
The center's website, known as Sabato's Crystal Ball, explained in its December analysis that "the unpopular Reid had a very difficult campaign in 2010, but he survived thanks to his hapless, foot-in-mouth opponent, Sharron Angle (R), and a tremendous ground operation."
Reid showed signs of vulnerability in 2010, with three-quarters of post-Labor Day polls showing him trailing Angle.
But demonstrating the truth of the overused statement that "the only poll that matters is on Election Day," Reid rallied and defeated Angle by a margin of 50 percent to 45 percent.
Remarkably, Reid, who has won five consecutive Senate elections dating back to 1986, has only won once with more than 51 percent of the vote – winning 61.1 percent of the vote in 2004. In his other Senate races, the Center for Politics notes, his vote percentages ranked "very low for a winner," ranging from 47.9 percent in 1998 to 51 percent in 1992.
By some measures, Reid "has had a tougher time retaining his seat than any of the longest serving senators during the century-long era of popular Senate elections. He is, in many ways, the heartiest of the Senate survivors," according to Sabato's Crystal Ball. Assuming Reid runs again, the website said it would "give him the benefit of the doubt" and list his 2016 race as one in the "Leans Democratic" category.
But that would change if Nevada's popular Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, were to enter the race. Sandoval "is so formidable and popular that his entry into the race would make Reid an underdog," the website said. "We would move the rating to 'Leans Republican.'"
Another factor is the fact that Reid was seriously injured
while exercising, breaking a number of ribs and losing vision in one eye. The eye injury is thought to be temporary, and it is unclear what effect the accident might have on Reid's 2016 political plans.
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