By Maria Saporta
When Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed attends President Barack Obama’s “State of the Union” speech in Washington, D.C. tonight, he will attend with the belief that the Democratic President will win re-election in November.
Reed, who was the keynote speaker at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon today at the Capital City Club downtown, said he believes Obama will win, but that it will be a much closer race than it was in 2008.
Asked to analyze the Republican presidential primary race, Reed responded reluctantly.
“I think that our Republican friends at the presidential level have real challenges because they are running a race that’s right, right,” Reed said. “They are running campaigns that are forcing them to go right, right and there’s too much of a field open in the middle.”
In short, the mayor said that by going so far to the right, the candidates were leaving moderate Republicans and independents behind.
Specifically, Reed mentioned former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who represented Georgia.
By running campaigns that are leaning so far to the right, Reed said that both of them were going to have to “contort themselves” back to the center to have any hope of getting elected.
Romney also would probably have to select a super conservative Republican to be his running mate because so many people don’t believe he is a true conservative. The mayor said that such a move could end up alienating the center and more moderate voters.
People also may be underestimating Obama’s political strength.
“I don’t think people understand how competitive the president is,” Reed said. “I think the president is going to win the election. I don’t care by how much. I’m someone who won by 714 votes.”
Reed went on to say that he has just as much power serving as mayor if he had won by thousands of votes.
The mayor also highlighted the unique relationship he shares with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and other of the state’s top Republicans — especially while working on issues that are important to all Georgians — such as the deepening of the Savannah port.
“On a small number of things, the issues are too big,” said Reed, adding that Deal is as Republican as he can be — “all the way down to his toes.”
At the same time, Reed said he’s as Democratic as he can be — “all the way down to his toes.”
He further reinforced the point when he said: “I will be cheering for the president tonight with the most powerful lungs that I have.”
Interestingly enough, Reed does have a vested interest in Obama winning re-election.
Reed has built such a strong alliance with the state’s Republican leadership partly because he has been able to serve as a bridge builder between the state house and the White House.
That pivotal role of being able to open Democratic doors for Georgia’s Republican leaders in Washington, D.C. certainly would be diminished if a Republican were to be elected president in November.
Time will tell.