Harry Reid, the longtime Democrat who represented Nevada in the Senate for three decades and served as the Senate majority leader for eight years, on Sunday declined to endorse Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s nascent presidential run.
Although he called the 69-year-old Warren a “good person” in an interview with the Boston Globe, Reid, 79, asserted that “my Nevada politics keep me from publicly endorsing her.”
He added that “anything I can do to help Elizabeth Warren short of the endorsement, I will do.”
Reid, who said he “didn’t discourage” Warren from seeking the White House, helped catapult Warren into the national spotlight by appointing her in November 2008 to the Congressional Oversight Panel, a five-member committee responsible for overseeing the federal bailout provided by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.
Nevada, which Hillary Clinton narrowly won in the 2016 presidential race, will assume an unprecedented level of importance in the upcoming 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, because a change in the primary calendar will put Nevada’s primaries just prior to the key primaries in California.
Prospective Democratic presidential hopefuls seeking to secure the momentum heading into the California races have flocked to Nevada in recent months. Additonally, Nevada is seen as a potential 2020 battleground state in the general election, and Reid’s endorsement carries significant sway among residents.
“With California coming on early, I think the West is more important than ever,” Reid told the Globe.
Warren’s candidacy has had a rocky start in the days and weeks since she announced that she had formed an exploratory committee for a White House bid on Dec. 31. That evening, Warren was widely mocked for appearing in an Instagram live feed and awkwardly telling the audience, “Hold on a second — I’m gonna get me a beer.”
Warren’s’ husband later walked into the kitchen, prompting Warren to tell him, “Thank you for being here.” He replies, matter-of-factly: “Enjoy your beer.”
President Trump, who has long mocked Warren for claiming to have Native American ancestry in what he called an effort to advance her academic career, savaged the episode as “the Elizabeth Warren beer catastrophe.”
And Warren finally apologized to the Cherokee Nation over the weekend for taking a DNA test last year in an effort to prove she had Native-American ancestry, in an apparent effort to smooth over the lingering controversy.
The DNA test attracted bipartisan scorn from Native American groups, Democratic politicos, and academics. Kim TallBear, an associate professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, remarked that Warren’s “very desire to locate a claim to Native American identity in a DNA marker inherited from a long-ago ancestor is a settler-colonial racial understanding of what it is to be Native American.”
The test results Warren publicized did not definitively prove Warren has significant Native American ancestry, even though Stanford professor Carlos D. Bustamante, who conducted the analysis, said the results “strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor.”
According to the analysis Warren took, “the vast majority” of Warren’s family tree is European and there is “strong evidence” she has Native-American ancestry “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.”
As reported by the Globe, this means she could be between 1/64 and 1/1,024 Native American (though the newspaper initially published an erroneous figure and had to correct it).
“Senator Warren has reached out to us and has apologized to the tribe. We are encouraged by this dialogue and understanding that being a Cherokee Nation tribal citizen is rooted in centuries of culture and laws, not through DNA tests,” Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Julie Hubbard said in a statement.
And earlier in January, Warren proposed an unprecedented wealth tax of 2 percent annually on all assets belonging to households worth more than $50 million, as well as a 1 percent tax on households with $1 billion or more. Critics have charged that the idea is both dangerous and unconstitutional, because it directly taxes wealth that is not transferred, invested, or earned as income, without ensuring the tax is evenly distributed across states.
The series of apparent missteps have attracted early negative attention in a field now full of candidates without comparable political baggage. Since Warren announced the formation of an exploratory committee, several other top Democrats, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, have announced their intent to seek the White House.
While the president has heaped praise on Harris — saying last week in the Oval Office she had “the best opening so far” of any Democratic contender — he has issued only backhanded compliments to Warren.
“We’ll see how she does, I wish her well,” Trump told Fox News shortly after Warren entered the ring. “I hope she does well. I’d love to run against her.”