Another Day, Another Western Democratic Senator with Humble Roots to Fawn Over

Tim Graham noticed the Times' portrayal Monday of Montana's new DemocraticSen. Jon Tester, a favorite of the left-wing DailyKos bloggers, as a "prairie pragmatist."

Mark Leibovichhad a similar take last Friday in his "Man in the News" profile of incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, playingup Reid's hardscrabble Western roots.

"He makes an unlikely front man, a role that was displayed Thursday amid chants of 'Harry, Harry' at a Capitol Hill rally shortly after Senator George Allen's concession in Virginia ensured that Democrats would have a majority in the Senate. Mr. Reid is low-key, deferential and somewhat sheepish, qualities that make it easy to misread or underestimate him.

"'People can say he is a nice guy, but that just totally misses it,' said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York. 'He's got a spine of steel, and he will go toe-to-toe with anyone.'

"Harry Mason Reid is the product of the tiny desert town of Searchlight, Nev., whose father, a hard-rock miner, battled alcoholism and depression before killing himself at 58. The future senator hitchhiked 40 miles to attend high school in Henderson, where he became an amateur boxer."

Leibovich hypes Reid as the gracious underdog: "Mr. Reid added that he would 'try not to be obnoxious,' but also allowed that 'the Senate is not a place for hugs and kisses.' He said he realized that as a legislator, he could not get anything done without compromising with the president, whom he was scheduled to meet with Friday morning. He said he could not remember the last time he was invited to the White House.

"'I have hope it will change,' Mr. Reid said of his largely nonexistent working relationship with Mr. Bush and other administration officials."

Slate editor Jack Shafer jabs Leibovich for his "semi-sweet treatment" of Reid.