With a weak hand, Reid gets a lucky draw in Nevada 

Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle's come-from-behind win in Nevada's Senate Republican primary has Democrats predicting a November victory for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

But Reid's low poll numbers continue to threaten his bid for aterm, and with Republicans planning to pour every resource into the race, his victory is hardly assured.

"It's not going to be a cakewalk," Nevada political strategist Jon Ralston said. "No one with a 30 or 40 percent approval rating would have an easy time, but he's much happier today than he was three or four months ago."

That's when Sue Lowden was leading the pack of Republicans seeking to take on Reid in November. Lowden was considered the most mainstream candidate and the most likely to attract the coveted independent voters who make up a growing percent of the electorate and who could become the deciding factor in the race.

"Angle just has a much more difficult time getting the middle to vote for her because of her deeply held conservative political beliefs," Ralston said.

Angle, for instance, supports phasing out Social Security and abolishing the Department of Education and once supported a Scientology-backed proposal to use massage therapy to wean prisoners off drugs.

Republicans are far more optimistic about Angle, pointing to Reid's approval ratings, which hover in the low 40s and are shockingly low for an incumbent.

In his primary, Reid captured 87,374 votes, with more than 16,000 voters choosing among three other candidates and 12,335 selecting "none of these candidates" on the ballot. Angle pulled in more than 70,000 votes out if more than 164,000 Republican ballots cast. Both parties had multiple contested races on the Nevada ballot but Republicans turned out in greater numbers, a pattern that could hurt Reid in the fall.

"The fact is that re-election campaigns for incumbents are referendums on those incumbents, and Reid's numbers are very bad," Republican strategist Whit Ayers said.

Ayers said Democrats could have difficulty turning out the vote for Reid, in part because of his leadership role in the Democratic-led Congress, a position that contributed to the downfall of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

"The fundamental problem is people in Nevada feel Reid has spent more time representing the national interests than in the interests of his constituents," Ayers said. "That's the kind of problem that has tripped up past Democrats from purple states."

Democrats are wasting no time trying to discredit Angle, sending out blast e-mails describing her as "so far out [of] the main stream she needs a telescope to find it."

Republicans in Nevada say they are impressed with Angle and believe she can win.

"If a candidate represents nine out of ten things you believe in, I have a hard time seeing that's outside the mainstream," Clark County Republican Chairman Bob Ruckman said. "And it's so obvious Harry Reid is so out of touch with Nevadans. He doesn't even come back to the state anymore. I think this is going to be a surprising election. If you are an incumbent I think the American people are just fed up."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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