A rather shocking thing happened on "Face the Nation" Sunday: CBS News's chief legal correspondent said Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) racist remarks about presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 will harm Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.
Quite contrary to how ABC's George Stephanopoulos gave cover to the Senate Majority Leader by declaring his comments were supposed to be private, "FTN" took Friday's revelations much more seriously.
CBS Newser Jan Crawford said, "I think the much bigger question is more broadly, what is this going to mean in the midterms, and for the Democrats specifically in the midterms. Because you know, this could very well make the base much less enthusiastic to come out to vote."
She concluded, "I think as we look forward into this upcoming election, it's going to have big problems for Harry Reid, big problems for Democrats in general (video embedded below the fold with transcript)
BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: And we're back now with Peter Baker, White House correspondent for the New York Times, and Jan Crawford, our chief legal correspondent.
Jan, I want to talk with you. And I want to talk first, I think Dianne Feinstein made some news this morning and we'll certainly get to that. But I want to talk to you first about this thing with Harry Reid . A book does not make clear where he actually said this, where he made this statement, that because he has light skin, Barack Obama has a good chance of being elected and because he doesn't have a Negro accent. Who did he say that to?
JAN CRAWFORD, CBS CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Bob, that is the incredible thing. We confirmed this morning that he said that to one of the authors. And what he was trying to do, he was talking to one of the authors, you know, for this book. And what he was trying to do was to explain his early support for Barack Obama , how no one knew that he had come out early for Barack Obama . So he actually said this during an interview for this book.
Now that, of course, caught his advisers totally off guard. This leaked out late Friday night, about midnight.
CRAWFORD: So he spent all day yesterday, we confirmed this morning. He made 35 different phone calls, mainly to African- Americans and leaders, trying to apologize and get himself out of this mess.
SCHIEFFER: And he did apologize to the president and that was accepted.
CRAWFORD: That's right. I mean, the president said, you know, let's just move on. I've accepted your apology. The question now is, though, whether or not everybody else is going to move on. Obviously we saw Congressman Hoekstra say this is a Democratic problem, it's a personal problem. That's the best thing that the Republicans can do right now. When you have got somebody kind of exploding, you don't want to step in and become collateral damage yourself.
SCHIEFFER: Never step in front of a firing squad.
CRAWFORD: Exactly right. But what is this going to mean not only for Harry Reid , who is kind of on life support out there in Nevada anyway. I mean, does this pull the plug on him for his reelection chances? And what does this mean to Democrats, I mean, more broadly in those midterms?
SCHIEFFER: What do you think? Does this affect the president's agenda, Peter?
PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it's one more distraction. We're talking about that. We're not talking about health care. I think you remember of course Vice President Biden had said something similar when he was running against Barack Obama for president, that he was the first clean, articulate African-American running. And it shows a certain discomfort I think, even within his own party, of how to grapple with who this new president is. A guy who did sort of come out of nowhere, had only been in the Senate for four years before he became president. You get folks who have been here in Washington for a long time still trying to define his success, how to define his place in American politics.
SCHIEFFER: Republicans are already saying, I mean Michael Steele, the chairman, said this morning he ought to step down. Trent Lott, when he made that remark about Strom Thurmond, that the country would have been better off had he been elected president, he did have to resign his leadership post. Do you get the sense that -- I guess it's a little too early to know -- but that Harry Reid may have to leave the leadership?
BAKER: Well, these things are always of course a summation of something else that is going on. I mean, Trent Lott had to step down in part because his own party had grown disenchanted with him for a lot of different reasons, including his president. President Bush, the White House didn't step in to support him.
The question is are there enough reasons for the Democrats to be unhappy with Harry Reid , for other reasons that would undermine the support in a moment like this when he's in trouble? There is no sign that President Obama would abandon him at this point. I think President Obama needs him to focus on health care and get it through this next month.
CRAWFORD: I think the much bigger question is more broadly, what is this going to mean in the midterms, and for the Democrats specifically in the midterms. Because you know, this could very well make the base much less enthusiastic to come out to vote. I mean, the midterms are much more about the base versus base. Anyway, those Republican voters are very fired up, and the Democrats need every single vote they can get at this point. I mean, already before this happened, it looked like Democrats were going to lose, what, four to six seats in the Senate, 20 to 30 seats in the House. So I think this -- I agree, I don't see that is going to really lead to Reid stepping down, but I think as we look forward into this upcoming election, it's going to have big problems for Harry Reid, big problems for Democrats in general.
Nice analysis, Jan. Good job.