Reid and Obama have often talked about their love for each other—at the candidate event that night, Reid was presented with a framed newspaper of the two men hugging—so I asked him whether Buttigieg reminds him of Obama. “He really does have a gift of communication like Obama had,” Reid said. “Obama was a little more effusive. Buttigieg is a little more soft-sell.” He noted that Buttigieg’s strength is the aspect of the race that’s surprised him so far. Booker, Reid says, “has it all: Rhodes Scholar, tight end for Stanford.” He noted that Amy Klobuchar had just called him a few hours ago. About Michael Bloomberg, he made sure to point out: “He should spend some of his money developing state parties—he’s got the money to do it.”
A few days later, I asked Warren why she kept calling Reid. “Because Harry is very insightful. I never call Harry that I don’t learn something,” she told me.
But what about his guidance on not getting too far out on a left-leaning-limb in a primary?
Warren laughed. “You know, I always listen to Harry’s advice.”
Has his advice changed what she’s done with the campaign—like in the past month, say, when she triangulated how she’s pitching the transition to Medicare for All? “Harry’s advice is always valuable.”
I noted that her skill at dodging my questions would make Reid proud.
“Oh, I love Harry,” she said.
Read: Harry Reid goes down fighting
If the selection of the Democratic nominee does come down to Reid brokering a compromise, whom might he back? He won’t say, of course, and has promised not to make any endorsement until at least after Nevada’s primary, at the end of February. But he’s been talking up Warren since the 2016 election ended, and she was the candidate he was decidedly the most effusive about, calling her “one of the finest people I’ve ever worked with.” And many former Reid staffers occupy prominent roles on the Warren and Sanders campaigns and on lefty Twitter.
Does all this mean that you’re a secret liberal, or you’re more progressive than people thought? I asked Reid.
“I’m glad you think it’s a secret,” he told me.
A few minutes after we finished the interview, Reid was rolled across the hallway, where he told a group of reporters that the race to be the Democratic nominee “is now very fluid.” In our interview, I’d pressed him about what would happen if that fluidity were to persist longer than was good for the Democrats. Does he feel the need to stay alive until at least March or April, when most of the primaries have passed, so that if necessary he can bring about an end to that fluidity?
“I got to make it to March or April to see how the Nationals do again,” he said.
Okay, if you’re not going to broker a compromise among warring candidates, who could do it?
Obama, he suggested.
But what if Obama can’t or won’t?
“I don’t want to talk like I’m the only person that could do it,” he said. “I’m sure there are others.”
Who? I asked him. He couldn’t come up with anyone else.