Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't look very good in Washingtonian's Best and Worst of Congress list for 2014. The honors, based on votes by Capitol Hill staffers, position Reid as the most partisan, the worst-speaking and the second-meanest solon (behind Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.) in the nation's allegedly most deliberative body.
The magazine's 15th biennial survey has a sort of "sexiest man alive" feel. It's highly subjective and something of a popularity contest, but it does give the voting public a reliable sense of how insiders see one another -- whom they like and whom they loathe.
The other big winner/loser is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Survey participants named Cruz the second-most partisan senator. Cruz also won honors as top "showhorse," second-place "clueless" and first-place "biggest disappointment." Cruz famously led the House into a box canyon in an ill-fated attempt to "defund Obamacare." Ergo, he was the only legislator named for "most likely to vote for a shutdown."
Paul O'Donnell of Washingtonian told me that more GOP staffers responded to the survey than Democrats. He was surprised by how many Republicans went after Cruz and also by how much criticism had come Reid's way. "If the Democrats rated one of their own as meanest, they tended to be the ones naming Mikulski," he noted. As for Reid, quoth O'Donnell, he "just had a bigger year."
Indeed, as Politico reported, in Wednesday's senatorial debate in Kansas with incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, independent challenger Greg Orman promised not to vote to keep Reid as Senate leader. "The Senate is being run poorly. Harry Reid is running it like a dictatorship," Orman said. "But the House has similar problems." According to the latest Gallup poll, 45 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Reid, compared with 21 percent with a favorable view.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was voted "best dressed" and "most partisan" House member.
Lame-duck Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, rates as the Senate's top "workhorse"; Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., came in second. McConnell tied with Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, as second-worst speaker. ("I'd rather be boring than mean," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart quipped.) Participants also rated McConnell as "wisest."
Stanford University political science professor Bruce Cain sees the survey results as a function of Washington politicians' and their staffs' distaste for other politicians who are, well, "overly political." Candidates work hard to get elected; they don't want colleagues who "will say anything, do anything, to get ahead."
Two years ago, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., placed second as "showhorse" and first as "biggest disappointment." In 2014, as he has worked to improve his party's image, Paul is Washingtonian's "rising star." (Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., placed second.) There's a message here for every would-be politician. As Cain notes, Reid is the type of leader who is "more feared than liked." As for Cruz, he's neither. You want to be liked in Washington. You don't need to buy a dog. Just don't make your colleagues look bad.