Sunday, September 05, 2010

Nevada U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Nevada U.S. Senate

September 5, 2010
58 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

If the news media will be looking for one single contest this Election Night to make their top story, it might very well be the contest in Nevada where U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is fighting for his political life against a very polarizing, conservative challenger. The conventional wisdom is that Republicans need to win this seat in order to get to the magic number of 51 to take over control of the Senate, which would leave a couple remaining Senate Democrats fight for the job of Minority Leader. However, political developments in other states are such where now theoretically, Reid can be reelected, and still see his party lose control of the Senate.

As mentioned yesterday in the discussion of the state's Gubernatorial race, Harry Reid has taken many steps at home to attempt to prevent Republicans from standing in his way. However, one prominent GOP candidate is now leading Reid's son by a significant margin in the race for Governor, which one would assume will make it at least a mixed emotions Election Night for Senator Reid, regardless of how his own race turns out. Still though, Reid had to have been very happy with the results of the Republican primary.

In a time of anti-incumbent sentiment, any Senate Majority Leader is going to suffer at home politically. The last Democrat to hold that position was defeated for reelection in 2004. Reid has done even more to anger Republicans in recent years, both policy wise, and through his often sharp rhetoric. While very soft-spoken, Reid has long had a reputation as one of the most vicious political fighters around. His standing in the state had been falling steeply and while a few prominent Republicans were either spooked out of the race by Reid's efforts or decided to not take the gamble, a very large field did emerge.

The two most prominent Republicans in the race were businessman Danny Tarkanian, who had run unsuccessfully statewide not long ago, but whose father had been a prominent college basketball coach in Las Vegas, and Sue Lowden, a former State Senator and State GOP Chair. Both candidates were shown beating Reid in head to head matchups. Lowden was especially touted by national Republicans. The former beauty queen was seen as the kind of female opponent who could present the most trouble for Reid.

Lowden made some missteps on the campaign trail though, and with some aid by a California based Tea Party group, another candidate began to emerge as a potential primary victor. Sharron Angle had served as a State Representative from more sparsely populated northern Nevada, and in 2006, surprised many by coming in second place in a hotly contested Congressional primary. With support from the Tea Party group and other conservatives, Angle began to gradually pick up steam in this Senate primary. Many Republicans were apoplectic and Lowden's campaign was left with little choice but to very negatively attack Angle and try to warn primary voters that she could be unelectable in November. Sensing a potential Republican break, Reid and his supporters are believed to have tried to take steps behind the scenes to hurt Lowden and ensure Angle would win the primary.

That happened in June, as Angle finished atop the field by a 14 point margin. While her defeated Republican primary opponents expressed the need to close ranks and defeat Reid, some other Republicans determined that voting for Angle would more than would be able to do. Even party stalwarts were upset at the result, believing that Angle's staunch and unwavering views and serious lack of polish on the campaign stump would open up the door to a Reid reelection, after he had looked like political toast for months.

In the first post-primary polls, Angle did indeed hold a lead over the incumbent, indicating his serious vulnerability and the desire voters of the state seemed to have for replacing him. Reid and Democrat interest groups then began spending heavily on the airwaves trying to define Angle, and inevitably, her numbers began to fall and the Senator moved back ahead, with both candidates now quite unpopular statewide. Most recently, Angle has gained a little bit of support back to the extent where the race now looks like a dead heat. With Labor Day upon us, the race is anybody's game.

So much attention will be paid nationally to this contest, as money will flow in, largely to run attack ads. Any debates held between Reid and Angle will be much anticipated affairs. Both candidates, including the longtime veteran Reid are quite prone to make gaffes and in the age of YouTube "gotcha" moments, there is almost something certain from both sides to roil folks. One interesting and unique aspect to Nevada politics is that voters have the option to cast their voice officially for "none of these." With both candidates unpopular, that almost insures the winner will only receive a plurality and the "nobody" protest vote could very well spell the difference between victory and defeat. There will also be some Independent and minor party candidates on the ballot. One additional controversial aspect to the election is the fight over whether or not a candidate of the "Tea Party" will make it through to that state. Republicans claim his placement is a Democrat dirty trick in order to split the GOP vote. Genuine die-hard members of the Tea Party are likely to stick with Angle. If elected, she will be sure to be watched on Capitol Hill like a hawk, and someone who is certain to annoy liberals to no end.

As for my prediction on this race; I would really like to be proven wrong on this, and with the race so close, that may very well happen, but my fear at the moment is that Reid will eke out a close win. Both Tarkanian and Lowden would be heavy favorites over Reid at this point, and I would think that even some of the other lesser known Republicans who finished down the pack in the primary would be good bets as well. Despite her conservative record as an Assemblywoman and staunch conservative views, Angle would be in better shape, if she were a little stronger in appealing to voters on television. Her best bet would maybe including lying low to an extent and just hoping that the obvious negative attitude towards Reid in a strong Republican year propel her to victory.

If that GOP wave is big enough, she probably will win. That is the hope of just about every Republican in the country, as there would be nothing more enjoyable than to see the pompous Harry Reid attempt to give a concession speech, but at this point, there should probably be some remorse that a stronger Republican was not nominated.

Godspeed, Mrs. Angle! We conservatives all hope you have the right (double meaning) angle to send part of the Democrat troika into retirement.

Angle campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 5 D, 16 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 45 D, 39 R