WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opened the door Sunday for Roland Burris to be sworn in as a senator from Illinois. "There's always room to negotiate," Reid told David Gregory on NBC's "Meet the Press."
From the soundings I took Sunday, I have a well-informed hunch that if Burris wants to get a deal done quickly, he needs to say he won't run for the seat in 2010.
The Burris situation has swollen to be a monumental distraction to the Senate. Even though Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate leader, and all the other Senate Democrats said they would not accept an appointee sent to them by the tainted Gov. Blagojevich -- they may be willing to move on.
Reid told Gregory that he and Durbin will confer with Burris on Wednesday.
Burris attorney Tim Wright told me Sunday that despite the Wednesday meeting, Burris will show up at the Capitol on Tuesday and demand to be sworn in.
This brings me to why Burris will be much closer to a deal if he takes himself out of the 2010 contest. The Senate leaders want someone in the seat who has an excellent chance to win it in the next election.
Burris, 71, would face an almost certain Democratic primary challenge. He lost statewide primary contests for governor in 1994, 1998 and 2002 and failed in a 1995 Chicago mayoral bid.
When we talked Friday, Burris said he would likely run to keep the seat, and I asked him why he thought 2010 would be different.
"I'm the incumbent," Burris said.
When it comes to House and Senate spots, national party leaders help recruit strong candidates to run for office; they help raise money for contenders and provide massive support for the nominee.
My Sun-Times colleagues Natasha Korecki and Chris Fusco and I had a story in the Sunday Sun-Times about how Reid talked to Blagojevich about possible appointments. Reid boosted state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth and Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Rep. Danny Davis, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former state Senate President Emil Jones were not seen as politically viable.
The call came to light as a by-product of the federal wiretaps of Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell the Obama seat in exchange for a plum job or campaign contributions.
Reid was not wrong to call Blagojevich. Unfortunately, the racial rhetoric is boiling because Burris, Davis, Jones and Jackson are African-American. But each one would come to a statewide race with more liabilities than Duckworth or Madigan. Race is the least of the electoral problems of that quartet.
Barack Obama is about to be the first African-American president. If there was another Obama hanging around Illinois, Reid would grab him in a minute.