Reid, Angle depicting other as out of touch

Mud already flying in Nevada as Senate contest commences

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She’s billed as a nut-job, and he’s portrayed as a one-man economic wrecking crew. It appears she wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, while he wants to tax and regulate the nation into oblivion.

The Senate race in Nevada is less than a week old, and already the campaign themes are clear. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is intent on portraying Republican challenger Sharron Angle as a wacko, while she’s intent on portraying him as out of touch with supply-and-demand reality.

Former President Bill Clinton fired the first salvo Thursday night at a campaign appearance for the embattled Democratic senator, blaming Republicans for the economic mess and accusing Mrs. Angle of “hiding out” from the public after her come-from-behind June 8 primary win.

“I might hide out, too, if I said I wanted to get rid of Social Security and Medicare,” Mr. Clinton said.

Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy said Mr. Reid is attempting to divert attention from his own record and Nevada’s 13.5 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the nation.

“Sharron Angle’s not the one proposing dangerous ideas for the economy, like the stimulus package, cap-and-trade legislation, and amnesty [for illegal aliens],” said Mr. Stacy. “He can try to paint Sharron as an extremist, but it’s Harry Reid who’s the extremist.”

Mrs. Angle’s dark-horse victory came as a gift to the Reid campaign, given that she was widely viewed as the least formidable of the top Republican primary candidates. The former state legislator has no personal wealth, little name recognition in Clark County - the state’s population base - and a lengthy record as a hard-core conservative who’s unlikely to appeal to moderates.

Even so, Mr. Reid will need everything to break his way during the campaign if he’s to overcome his own substantial negatives. His favorability rating among Nevada voters continues to hold at about 40 percent. In his own barely contested primary race, he received just 75 percent of the vote, with 11 percent of Democrats casting their ballots for “none of these candidates.”

The Cook Political Report rates the race as a tossup, never a good sign for a three-term incumbent who’s also the face of the Senate. A Rasmussen Reports survey released June 10 showed Mrs. Angle leading the incumbent by a margin of 50 percent to 39 percent, with 6 percent undecided and 5 percent preferring another candidate.

On the plus side for Mr. Reid, Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston recently upgraded the senator’s status from “Harry Reid is dead” to “Harry Reid is alive” in his column for the Las Vegas Sun. He said the race would be all but over, “except I keep forgetting just how unpopular Harry Reid is here.”

“People are angry. And most of them don’t know much about Angle except that she’s not Harry Reid - for many, that’s enough,” Mr. Ralston said. “The Anybody But Reid contingent is large in this state, so even though the majority leader is going to try to introduce Angle to the broader electorate, he is not suddenly going to become more popular.”

Not that he won’t try. The Reid campaign released two new television ads over the weekend, both positive, giving Mr. Reid credit for bringing solar-energy and geothermal-energy jobs to Nevada.

The ads also introduced voters to the Reid campaign’s new slogan, “No one can do more,” referring to his considerable clout and ability to bring home the bacon as Senate majority leader. The National Republican Senatorial Committee was quick to mock the message.

“Considering Nevada’s record unemployment and [the] failed $787 billion stimulus bill, we have to agree with the Senate majority leader - no one has done more to grow the size of the federal government and increase the tax burden on Nevada families,” said the NRSC in a statement.

Mrs. Angle flew to New York on Sunday for television appearances, and was slated to meet with top Washington Republicans this week. It’s no secret that she wasn’t the party’s first choice - that would have been rich, telegenic former state party chairwoman Sue Lowden - but national Republicans are now rallying behind Mrs. Angle, Mr. Stacy said.

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