- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was projected as the winner early Wednesday in the hard-fought Nevada Senate race, beating back a formidable challenge from Republican Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle and overcoming his own high negatives with the voters.

With 58 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Reid led by a margin of 50 to 45 percent. Fox News called the election in Mr. Reid’s favor shortly after 12:30 a.m. Eastern time. Nevada election results were delayed by about an hour due to long lines at the polls in Washoe and Elko counties, both considered Angle strongholds.

Mr. Reid declared victory in a speech shortly before 2 a.m. Eastern time. A former boxer, Mr. Reid said that he had been involved in many tough fights, but that “I have to admit, this has been one of the toughest.”

“This race has been called, but the fight is far from over,” said Mr. Reid. “The bell that just rang isn’t the end of the fight, it’s the start of the next round.”

Two pre-election polls showed Mrs. Angle with a small lead. Still, nobody was counting Mr. Reid out, given his long history of pulling out close wins, the state Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote effort, and a pre-Election Day push that featured first lady Michelle Obama stumping for him Monday in Las Vegas.

Analyst Jon Ralston said in his Tuesday column for the Las Vegas Sun that “it just feels as if Harry Reid is going to lose,” but nonetheless predicted that the Democrat would prevail, albeit barely.

“It’s possible none of this made any difference, that Reid has been dead all along and no amount of campaign brilliance or Angle exposure could resuscitate him,” Mr. Ralston said. “The hatred is palpable, the discontent bubbling over. But I think he finds a way to survive.”

The five-month, $50 million campaign was a classic establishment-vs.-“tea party” contest, the longtime Washington politician trying to stave off a challenge from the inexperienced but feisty grass-roots challenger.

The race also may have been the nastiest race of the cycle. Mr. Reid’s favorability rating already was in the basement and his negative campaign against Mrs. Angle soon had her in the mud as well.

From the time Mrs. Angle completed her come-from-behind primary victory in June, the Nevada Senate contest appeared to be the race nobody wanted to win. Immediately after the election, Mrs. Angle disappeared from public view, presumably while undergoing a makeover by national party leaders who couldn’t believe she had just defeated the more camera-ready Sue Lowden.

During those few weeks, the Reid campaign took advantage of her absence to define her as a radical extremist who wanted to end Social Security, work with Scientologists to give prisoners massages and eliminate veterans’ benefits.

Her small post-primary lead evaporated, but Mrs. Angle, 61, came clawing back, buoyed by her support from the “tea party” and her position as the anti-Reid.

Mr. Reid, 70, already was being blamed by many Nevada voters for the state’s 14.2 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the nation, and Mrs. Angle fed that perception by pounding on his votes in favor of the stimulus package, the health care bill and the Wall Street bailout.

Still, both candidates had a habit of getting in their own way. Mr. Reid said at one point that he couldn’t understand why any Hispanic would be a Republican, even though his son Rory Reid is running for governor against a Hispanic Republican, Brian Sandoval.

Mrs. Angle’s gaffes included her remark to Hispanic high school students that some of them looked Asian and that the 9/11 terrorists entered through the Canadian border. She also had to retract her statement that Shariah law - the sacred law of Islam - had been instituted in two American cities.

But she turned in a strong performance in their only debate. In the most memorable line of the evening, she told him to “man up” as he shuffled papers and looked uninterested in the proceedings.

All of the back and forth has left them fairly even in polls. A Fox News/Public Opinion Research survey of 1,000 voters taken Oct. 30 showed her leading 48 percent to 45 percent, while a Survey USA poll showed her up by 1 percentage point.

A Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey released Oct. 29 conducted for the Las Vegas Review Journal and News8 showed her leading Mr. Reid by 49 percent to 45 percent.

Reid just can’t get much above 45 percent, and she’s carrying the independents,” said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.

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