Reid, Angle misfire with gaffes in Nevada Senate race

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c January 2010: The political best-seller “Game Change” quotes Mr. Reid praising then-candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as “light-skinned” with “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” President Obama accepts Mr. Reid’s apology.

c August 2009: Mr. Reid refers to town-hall protesters angry over the health care proposal as “evilmongers.” He later says he could have been “less descriptive.”

c April 2007: Referring to the Iraq war, Mr. Reid tells a Capitol Hill press conference, “The war is lost.” In those same remarks, he said the George W. Bush administration’s military surge “is not accomplishing anything.” Mr. Reid was widely criticized for undermining the war effort, but refused to back down.

The “Negro dialect” remark alone would have been enough to kill the political careers of any number of lawmakers. Mr. Reid hasn’t exactly emerged unscathed - witness his low approval rating in Nevada - but his gaffes have also never stoked the kind of uproar that ended, for example, the career of Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi.

One reason may be that Mr. Reid has had so many such verbal blunders that they’ve become routine to Nevada voters.

Reid’s made these comments before, and it’s been damaging, but not as much as comments other politicians have made,” said Mr. Herzik.

He pointed to the recent case of fellow Nevadan state Sen. Sue Lowden, whose bid for the 2010 Republican Senate nomination was torpedoed by her comment about how old-timers used to barter chickens for their health care bills. Mrs. Angle went on to upset her in the primary.

“It destroyed [Mrs. Lowden’s] campaign. She got hung up on defending it, and it went viral,” said Mr. Herzik. “Harry Reid makes comments like the war is lost, George Bush is a loser, and they just seem to die.”

Mr. Reid also benefits from a crack campaign team experienced in dealing with his unscripted asides. Immediately after the remark about Hispanic Republicans, the campaign issued a statement trying to put their candidate back on message.

Sen. Reid’s contention was simply that he doesn’t understand how anyone, Hispanic or otherwise, would vote for Republican candidates,” said the statement, which went on to compile a laundry list of supposed Republican misdeeds, such as opposing help for “struggling, unemployed Nevadans.”

Mr. Erwin described the Reid campaign as “brutal, mean, tough and incredibly smart.”

“If Reid says something, his folks will badger the media until it goes away,” said Mr. Erwin. “They’re incredibly deft at it.”

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