President Obama's comments about building a mosque near Ground Zero incited a tidal wave of responses from talking heads across the political spectrum. At first, the debate broke on partisan lines, with Republicans criticizing Obama's comments and Democrats defending them. But since Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed Monday that the mosque should be built elsewhere, the spotlight has now turned to how the Democrats will respond.
"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion," said Reid's spokesman in a statement. "Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else." Reid is the highest ranking Democrat in the Senate and faces a close and contentious reelection bid against Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle in Nevada. Angle released a statement Monday opposing the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero and said "Reid has a responsibility to stand up and say no to the mosque at Ground Zero or once again side with President Obama." [See where Reid's campaign cash comes from.]
Reid isn't the only Democrat in a high profile race to oppose the potential mosque's location. Florida Democratic Senate hopeful Jeff Greene said Obama "has this all wrong," and urged the president to make a decision. "President Obama had the chance to show leadership by calling on the mosque's supporters to find a more appropriate location." Greene is heading into an August 24th Democratic primary against Rep. Kendrick Meek. [See who donates to Meek.]
While the Republican leadership has expressed a unified stance against building a mosque and Islamic community center near the Lower Manhattan 9/11 site, Reid's comments suggest a potential divide among Democratic leaders. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said this could be an election issue. With less than three months to go until the midterm elections, it remains to be seen whether this August issue will carry the same weight in November.