“Well, I regret a lot of things I’ve said over the years,” Reid said at his weekly press conference at the Capitol.
He spoke in a wistful tone and did not elaborate on those regrets, but the Democratic leader from Nevada has been criticized for several outlandish comments over the years including his statement that President Barack Obama had “no negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.”
Reid has also claimed “coal makes us sick” and called House Republicans “crazies.”
Reid publicly remarked at the official visitor center opening that he was grateful folks would no longer have to wait in lines outside in Washington’s scorching heat because “You could literally smell the tourists coming in the Capitol.”
Reid’s comments on Tuesday were in response to a question by The Observer, if in light of a fundraising email sent by Sen. Mark Udall last week acknowledging that he trailed Gardner by two percentage points, whether he regretted his jejune put-down of the Colorado Republican.
“Mark Udall is a fine candidate. He’s ahead in all of the polls I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them, and he’s going to win his re-election,” Reid said, emphasizing the word “I’ve.”
“As for Mr. Gardner, he has one of the worst, one of five most conservative records in Congress, and that says a lot,” Reid said.
A Colorado Republican aide described Reid’s latest comments as an attempt to control the damage for making a childish remark.
“He’s the majority leader. He’s supposed to say nice things about Sen. Udall and criticize Gardner. He didn’t say that before, so he’s saying it now. Calling Gardner a loser is like something you’d hear in 8th grade,” the aide said.
Reid has only recently emerged as a player in Colorado’s Senate race. With his job as the top Congressional Democrat dependent on the party losing no more than five seats in the upper chamber this fall, Reid has sought to intervene in support of Udall.
Reid’s leadership political action committee, Searchlight Leadership Fund, has given $10,000 to Udall’s campaign this year, while his super political action committee, the Senate Majority PAC, has donated $1.2 million to defeat Gardner through TV attack ads, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Politico reported on the secret audio recording of Reid’s remarks at a Democratic fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill June 5. Before a crowd of Democratic donors and activists, Reid called Gardner a “real loser.”
Gardner intimated that Reid’s remark stung but dismissed it with a quip. “I’ve been called worse by better people,” Gardner said in an interview outside the House floor last week.
One prominent Gardner ally, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, took a sterner approach to Reid’s comments. Rubio cut a Spanish-language television ad for Gardner that began appearing in May.
“It’s par for the course. Senator Reid smears and demeans. It’s part of his modus operandi,” Rubio said.
As Reid and Republicans spar over his comment, Udall is telling his network of donors that Gardner is anything but a loser in their contest.
The Colorado Democrat sent a fundraising email to supporters on Friday with the subject line, “NEW POLL: We’re trailing Gardner.”
The message cited a June 12 poll from the National Mining Association in which Gardner held a 47 to 45 percentage-point advantage over the incumbent.
“That’s his biggest lead over me today. I need your help,” Udall said in his fundraising plea.
“With our back against the wall today, it’s time we fight back — more than ever. This couldn’t come at a worse time. With the ever important June 30 FEC deadline approaching, Cory Gardner will use this poll to show his supporters he can win this U.S. Senate race,” Udall said.
A spokeswoman for the National Mining Association referred a reporter to Magellan Strategies, a polling firm with an office in Louisville, Colo. Dan Flaherty, the CEO of Magellan, said details about the polls are unavailable at the request of the association.
“I know it’s standard to release more information about the polls, but not in this instance, because the National Mining Association did not want to,” Flaherty said.
Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver pollster, said the disjuncture between Reid and Udall on the state of the race is “weird.”
“Well, (Reid’s) not reading from Udall’s fundraising letters, which has him down two points,” Ciruli chuckled.