Lowden: Twenty-five years ago, Reid was a "Reagan conservative" (UPDATE: Now she says she misspoke)

UPDATED: I have attached the full spreadsheet from NJ on Reid's voting record in the '80s. His pro-life positions helped bring him to the center, but on economic (hello, taxes), he was pretty liberal.

UPDATED, 11 AM, SATURDAY: Late Friday night, Lowden put out a series of tweets in which she said she "misspoke" and meant to call Reid a "Reagan Democrat." Then she unloaded on her opponent, state Sen. Mark Hutchison. Here are the tweets:

  1. Or why he defended a Democrat school board member last year accused of unlawfully using taxpayer resources to promote a tax hike? 4/4

  2. Now can we talk about ’s $7,052.18 in donations to Democrats in RECENT years & $1 billion+ he voted for in tax hikes? 3/4

  3. As notes, Reid’s ratings in 80s were 57, 69, 56, 55, 62, 56, 64. That was a moderate record. Today he’s in high 80s. 2/4

  4. Re: my remark yesterday on Harry Reid. I misspoke. In 80s he was considered a moderate Reagan Democrat, not a Reagan conservative. 1/4




UPDATED, 3:30 PM, Friday, with Reid's actual voting record for when Lowden said he was a "Reagan conservative."

Lieutenant governor candidate Sue Lowden said Thursday that 25 years ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was a "Reagan conservative," a remarkable description of the bête noire of GOP primary voters.

Lowden's comments came on Dan Mason's radio show after a question about her previous contributions to Reid and from a woman I have to believe was a plant from her opponent's campaign, but who nevertheless induced her to make a bizarre and potentially damaging response.

The audio is posted here, but Lowden first said what she usually does -- that she has contributed to many people -- but then added, "Twenty-five years ago, I did donate to, I think, his lieutenant governor's race. I think that's the race I donated to....and frankly he was a different person 25 years ago. I would consider him at that time a conservative, a Reagan conservative."

This is, of course, a risible statement.

First, 25 years ago, Reid was already in the U.S. Senate.

Second, Lowden made five $1,000 contributions to Reid during his first term in the House and his first term in the Senate (1984, 1986 and 1989). Reid ran for lieutenant governor in 1970! The question is why Lowden didn't recall these federal contributions since they were used against her during her 2010 U.S. Senate campaign.

What she said back then to mitigate the damage in a GOP primary was a reasonable (and I think, truthful) explanation: "Early on in the '80s when he was independent, we did feel that he was representing Nevada."

That might not really mitigate the political damage in a Republican primary. But in the early 1980s, the Lowdens and Reids were friendly, and as an anchorwoman and then Sahara Hotel executive, she gave to Reid and other Democrats.

Reid's office declined to comment.

Lowden referred me to a Wall Street Journal piece, which does not make her case as it ridicules Reid and only says he ran in 1986 as a Reaganite. Not exactly. I was there. Was he more moderate back then, or claimed to be, and moved further left as he climbed in leadership? Sure.

But a Reagan conservative? Never. And even if he ran purporting to be so, he never voted as such, so Lowden's case disintegrates. And that characterization surely would have appalled the Gipper, who came into the state several times during Reid's first Senate race to campaign for his foe, Jim Santini.

So how much will this hurt Lowden? It depends how Hutchison uses it, but in tandem with her donations to him and considering how much Reid is reviled in that universe, it will sting.

A final note: The planted caller strategy was last used brutally effectively by Team Reid in that 2010 race against the woman who defeated Lowden in that primary, Sharron Angle. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Team Hutchoval, the melding of the governor's anointed choice and his own team, learned the lessons well, it seems.

UPDATE: The good folks at the National Journal (thanks Peter Bell!) were good enough to unearth Reid's liberal/conservatvie scores from the 1980s. They reveal what we know: He was more moderate back then, but by no means conservative and certainly not a "Reagan conservative." To wit:

1983: He voted liberal 57 percent of the time.

1984: He voted liberal 69 percent of the time.

1985: 56 percent

1986: 55 percent

1987: 62 percent

1988: 56 percent

1989: 64 percent

So is someone who votes more than half the time, or more than 60 percent of the time liberal a "Reagan conservative"? I wonder what Reagan thought in those days.

Oh, wait, we know how he felt. When he came to stump for Santini right before the election in 1986, the president said:

It's time we got some facts out about Jim's opponent. I don't think the seriously independent people of Nevada want as their Senator a tax-and-spend liberal who's against a balanced budget amendment. And I don't want anybody to think I'm taking this personally. But Jim's opponent voted against me more often than Teddy Kennedy, and that's saying something.

Reid, as I said, has become more liberal as he ascended. For instance, his 2012 liberal rating was 88 percent. So if Lowden had simply said she became disillusioned as he tacked far to the left, that would be believable. But she dramatically overstated the case, as these ratings indicate.