Harry Reid's 10 biggest gaffes: Will his reelection bid suffer?

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is fighting for his political life against Republican Sharron Angle, but his own tongue is also proving to be a formidable adversary.

Julie Jacobson/AP
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid gave a speech during a lunch at the Air Force Energy Forum on Aug. 25, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Kirsten Gillibrand is the “hottest” senator. Delaware Senate candidate Chris Coons is Sen. Harry Reid’s “pet.” And President Obama is popular because he’s “light-skinned.”

In Washington, and around the country, Democratic Senate majority leader Reid has become known for his gaffes.

In most cases, they’re clear cases of speaking before he thinks – plus a tin ear for how statements may be perceived.

But in the age of blogging and 24-hour news, Senator Reid’s comments can take on a life of their own – and reach a large audience.

And in the midst of a vicious neck-and-neck race for reelection against "tea party" favorite Sharron Angle, Reid may find that his tongue is his worst enemy.

Reid has been a lawmaker in Washington for 28 years. Here are 10 of Reid’s biggest and most recent gaffes:

• Hot senator? This week, Reid referred to New York Senator Gillibrand as the “hottest member” of the Senate, at a fundraiser hosted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He says was making a joking reference to Gillibrand’s place on the “Most Beautiful” list put out by Capitol newspaper The Hill.

• "Pet" Coons. Last week Reid characterized Mr. Coons, up for election in Delaware, as “my pet.” Coons quickly issued a statement emphasizing his independence.

• Hispanic Republicans? In August, Reid said, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican. Do I need to say more?” He later backtracked, saying that he meant to say that he didn’t understand how anyone – Hispanic or otherwise – could vote for a Republican candidate because of GOP policies.

• Stinky tourists. At a dedication to the new Capitol Visitor Center in December 2008, Reid joked that in the summer, due to high humidity, “you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol.”

• "Negro" dialect. Reid was quoted in “Game Change,” a book about the 2008 election, as saying Barack Obama would be helped by being a “light-skinned" African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Reid apologized.

• Evil voters. In August last year, Reid said town-hall protesters angry about health-care reform were “evil-mongers” who use “lies, innuendo, and rumors” to drown out productive debate.

• Cheering lost jobs. Commenting on the better-than-expected jobs report in March, Reid said on the Senate floor: “Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good.”

• Goodbye, Ted Kennedy. When asked how the former Massachusetts senator’s death would affect healthcare-reform efforts, Reid said, “I think it’s going to help us.”

• “This war is lost.” That was Reid in 2007, speaking about negative developments in Iraq. Republicans pounced on the comment, saying it showed that Democrats don’t support the troops.

• "I hope you go out of business.” Probably not the best joke to make to the advertising director of the largest newspaper in his home state, the Republican-leaning Las Vegas Review-Journal.

One of the few things Reid has on his side? Ms. Angle, his opponent in the Nevada Senate race, seems equally prone to putting her foot in her mouth. Reid has already made ads capitalizing on her statement calling BP’s oil-spill victims’ account a “slush fund” and saying that “As your US senator, I’m not in the business of creating jobs.”

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