REID AND THE PUBLIC OPTION…. A report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal raised eyebrows yesterday, with encouraging words from the Senate Majority Leader.

“We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president’s desk,” Reid said in a conference call with constituents, referring to some kind of government plan.

“I believe the public option is so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us,” he said.

The problem, of course, is that the “public option” means different things to different people, and Reid conceded yesterday that it’s a “relative term.”

When I spoke to Reid’s office last night, I received an update: “Sen. Reid believes that health insurance reform must include a mechanism to keep insurers honest, create competition and keep costs down. He feels that the public option is the best way to do that. While we don’t know exactly what that option will look like, Sen. Reid, working with President Obama, will ensure that whatever is included in the final bill does just that.”

So, Reid’s guarantee of sorts should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

That said, I found it fairly heartening anyway. Given the larger rhetorical and strategic shifts of late, there was a sense that the public option’s chances of surviving the process were poor. Having the Senate Majority Leader declare that “we are going to have a public option” — even if the words are subject to some interpretation — can give the measure at least some momentum going forward.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.