Reid's immigration push vital to his reelection hopes 

Immigration reform, once considered dead for the year, has been thrown a lifeline by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose revival of the legislation could energize his state's Hispanic voters and help save himself from defeat in November.

Reid made a startling announcement earlier this month at an immigration rally held in downtown Las Vegas. He told the crowd of about 6,000 people that, despite a packed congressional agenda, he wanted Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.

"We're going to pass immigration reform, just as we passed health care reform," Reid said, adding that the looming confirmation process for a new Supreme Court justice to replace the retiring John Paul Stevens should not deter lawmakers.

Reid's comments caught many in Congress by surprise. Not only is the Senate struggling to take on new bank regulations and a Supreme Court nomination in the coming months, Reid has also pledged to try to tackle a global warming bill all before fall.

In football terms, immigration reform may be Reid's attempt at a political Hail Mary pass.

Reid has been trailing in Silver State polls by double digits when paired against likely Republican opponents. While state political analysts say Reid can still win, he is without question in the toughest political battle of his career.

The latest Las Vegas Review Journal/Mason-Dixon poll, taken April 13-14, shows Reid 10 points behind GOP opponent Sue Lowden.

Nevada's Republican base is energized to turn out at the polls and vote against him, and he lacks the backing of the state's growing independent base of voters who seem to be anti-Democrat.

"Clearly, Hispanics are a huge voting bloc here in Nevada," said Jon Ralston, a longtime political analyst in Nevada. "Reid has very little margin for error, If he does not get the Democratic base to turn out in large percentages, he has no chance of winning. He needs to get the Hispanic vote to coalesce behind him."

But Reid may not be able to keep his rally pledge, because few lawmakers in Congress have the desire to take on immigration reform, especially after the politically bruising battle over health care and with polls showing the public wants Congress to focus on the economy.

Congress tried and failed to pass immigration reform in 2007 and remains very divided over how to accomplish it, with some wanting the focus to remain on border security and others seeking a broader plan that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

"If the object is to get it passed, obviously it's not ready yet," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced on Tuesday a new 10-point proposal aimed solely at securing border.

Reid may get some help from President Obama, who is under increasing pressure from pro-immigration-reform groups to get something passed this year.

Obama has started reaching out to moderate Senate Republicans, who would be needed to help pass a bill, and he recently called Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., to ask if he would consider supporting a bill.

Brown, according to a top aide, told Obama he'd look at a bill, but, "the immediate focus should be on fixing the economy and creating jobs."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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