Washington (CNN) - The Silver State senator has proven once again that he lacks a silver tongue.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, took to the Senate floor Friday to trumpet the Labor Department's newly released jobless numbers. February's unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent as the economy shed 36,000 jobs. Not great, but the consensus forecast among economists at Briefing.com was for unemployment to rise to 9.8 percent with a net loss of 68,000 jobs.
Democrats wanted to seize on the numbers as evidence that the economic slide has stopped. Unfortunately for his colleagues, Reid mangled the message.
"Today is a big day in America," he proclaimed. "Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good." Reid noted that prognosticators had expected the numbers to be much worse.
Republicans immediately pounced on the campaign ad fodder from the four-term senator, who is facing a tough re-election fight this year.
"It's difficult to think of a Washington politician who is more out of touch with working Americans than Harry Reid," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said.
"Only in Harry Reid's world is it a good thing that 36,000 more Americans lost their jobs in February. Unfortunately, it's working families in Nevada who continue to pay the price for Reid's out-of-touch and failed leadership."
Walsh urged Nevada voters to seek vengeance at the polls. "The silver lining is that Nevada voters who were outraged to hear Harry Reid wax poetic about the serious issues of joblessness will have the opportunity to send him to the unemployment line this November," he said.
Democrats were left shaking their heads. Reid is "his own worst enemy," one Democratic source said.
Reid returned to the Senate floor later in the day to cry foul. My remarks "are being irresponsibly mischaracterized by those seeking to score political points," he said. "It's undeniably devastating news" that 36,000 Americans lost their jobs last month, he noted. "But if we're going to discuss the state of our economy and the direction in which it's going - and if we're going to talk about it
like adults - we have to take a step back and put this number in context."
Reid argued that passage of the Democrats' $862 billion stimulus act had prevented a bad economic situation from becoming much worse. He also criticized Senate Republicans for obstructing an extension of unemployment benefits and a new jobs bill.
"I encourage my Republican friends to remember this critical context before their political reflexes lead them to make claims they know to be false," he said.
"And I warn them, once again, that this country has no place and no patience for those who root for failure."
–CNN's David Goldman contributed to this report