- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Polls show nearly all voters in Nevada have made up their minds about the state’s bitter Senate race, but combatants Harry Reid and Sharron Angle upped the ante this week with a round of fresh attacks as they try to gain separation in a contest that’s long been too close to call.

Mrs. Angle, the Republican challenger, played the class-warfare card by releasing two television ads this week bent on contrasting the Senate majority leader’s lifestyle with that of the average Nevadan. The ads play up Mr. Reid’s residence at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., with one spot showing him cheek to cheek with a swimsuit supermodel.

Meanwhile, the Reid campaign has worked to drive a wedge between Mrs. Angle and Hispanic voters, blasting her television ad about illegal immigration and taking advantage of the Republican’s awkward exchanges in a recent meeting with a group of students.

State Democrats also pounced Tuesday on an ad by an independent GOP Hispanic group. The ad urged Hispanics not to vote in this election, supposedly to show their unhappiness with both political parties. Mrs. Angle’s campaign said it was not involved in producing the ad.

Mr. Reid also announced Monday that he would bring up for a vote a measure that would give $250 to Social Security recipients in next month’s “lame-duck” congressional session, a move denounced by Republicans as an attempt to buy the votes of seniors.

Given that polls show only 1 percent of the Nevada electorate is undecided, however, the strategy for the next two weeks is less about changing voters’ minds than getting them riled up enough to vote. Early voting began Saturday, and both sides need every ballot they can get.

Democrats have a slight voter registration edge in Nevada, but Republicans are likely to benefit from the energy brought by grass-roots movements such as the “tea party.”

“It’s a question of base turnout, and the Republican base has always been more excited,” said GOP political consultant Ryan Erwin. “When we do a postmortem the day after the election, I think the question is going to be, ‘Was Harry Reid able to get enough people out to stem the tide?’ “

County elections websites show that more Democrats cast ballots Saturday, the first day of early voting, in Clark and Washoe counties, but that their numbers have tapered off while those of Republicans have risen.

Democrats dominate Clark County, home of Las Vegas and the most populous county in the state, while Republicans perform better in Washoe County, home of Reno, and rural Nevada. The traditional strategy for state GOP races is to keep it close in Clark County and pick up the margin of victory elsewhere.

“The Democrats did a great job on the first day, but Republicans have been picking up steam every day since,” said Mr. Erwin. “Republicans are performing better in Clark County than expected, and if that trend holds, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for statewide Democrats to win.”

The candidates have been stuck within a couple of points of each other for months, but Mrs. Angle appeared to have the slight edge after Thursday’s debate. She was widely declared the winner in their only face-off after staying on the offensive while Mr. Reid appeared less engaged.

She also shocked campaign watchers by raising a whopping $14 million in one fundraising quarter. Her campaign has not said how much it spent to raise that much, but the number alone gave her campaign a boost nationally.

Mrs. Angle also benefited from an appearance by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who assailed Mr. Reid on Monday at a tea party gathering in Reno.

“You have 14.4 percent unemployment, highest in the nation,” said Mrs. Palin. “Why in the world won’t you fire him?”

Mrs. Angle’s most recent strategy has been to focus on Mr. Reid’s wealth. In an ad released Tuesday, she accuses him of using his office to enrich himself while his fellow Nevadans are struggling under the burden of the state’s highest-in-the-nation unemployment rate.

“While your family is just hanging on, someone’s been hanging out with supermodels,” says the ad, which shows Mr. Reid with Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Marissa Miller.

The Reid campaign responded to the Ritz-Carlton jab by stating, “Harry Reid was born, raised and still lives in Searchlight today. Everyone in Nevada knows that and no matter how hard Angle may try, she can’t take that away from him.”

The Reid campaign has struck back by playing up Mrs. Angle’s remarks before a group of Hispanic students. Asked why she used stock photos of menacing-looking Hispanic men in the ad, she said she couldn’t judge who was Hispanic and that some of the students at the gathering “look a little more Asian to me.”

She also said the ad dealt with securing the northern border as well as the border with Mexico, a statement later ridiculed by the Reid campaign.

“Like Angles statement that shes not sure the Mexican men in her ad are Latino and that the ad is about northern border security with Canada, her campaigns assertion is a complete and total lie. Angles ad is clearly a fearmongering, inflammatory attempt to scare Nevadans,” the Reid camp said in a statement.

The Angle campaign said she was trying to avoid indulging in stereotypes based on appearances.

“This is a low blow from Harry Reid,” said Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen. “Sharron is making the point that this country is a melting pot and you cannot judge people based on stereotypes or the way they look.”

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