Is Harry Reid Now the 'Underdog' in Nevada?

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In what has turned into an expensive proxy for both parties nationwide, Harry Reid has yet to shake off a surprisingly robust challenge from surging  Republican Sharron Angle. Despite a barrage of TV ads, numerous unflattering gaffes, and a "crazy juice" news meme that became a viral sensation, the cadre of Angle's enthusiastic supporters only seems to have grown. Luckily for Team Reid, a crucial televised debate on the economy tonight give the Democrat a chance at a turnaround. A strong debate performance would at least improve on the odds of hoping that Nevada's "none of the above" option might siphon off a few voters from Angle. Pundits parse the latest polls and give their prognoses about the debate's outcome:

  • Reid's Hopes Rest on Turnout Operation  Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg at The New York Times detail Reid's "sophisticated" turnout operation modeled after Barack Obama's Nevada campaign two years ago. "Campaigns frequently put too much faith in voter turnout operations, either to calm nervous supporters or boost their prospects with the media. But in a race this close — and with an electorate this small — turnout could very well prove critical, particularly with a field of a half-dozen other candidates and an option to vote for “none of the above,” which means that a candidate can win with less than 50 percent of the vote. In this case, there is also an official Tea Party candidate on the ballot."

  • Angle May Be Surging  The Hotline's Julie Sobel notes that "Angle has led in three polls of likely voters in the past two weeks" and prominent pollster "Nate Silver is now projecting a 66% likelihood of an Angle win. And this past week, for the first time since July, Intrade has seen Harry Reid fall below 50% and Sharon Angle rise to above 50%." Still, not all measures are rosy for the challenger, figures Sobel. Angle has had a rough few weeks with her pastor insulting a Nevada key constituency (Mormons), agreed that Sharia law is taking hold in U.S.towns, and made a gaffe by using 'stereotypical' illegal immigrants in a recent ad."

  • This Isn't 2008, But Democrats Are Pulling Out All the Stops Anyway  Politico's John Bresnahan and Manu Raju note that "Polls show many Nevada voters who backed Obama [in 2008] are considering staying home this time around, and the state now has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country and double-digit unemployment." That hasn't stopped the Democrats from trotting out Bill Clinton in Las Vegas last weekend, pouring money into a turnout operation more costly than Obama's $4 million ground game, and spending aggressively on the airwaves with "1.3 million in ad time for next week and an additional $1.4 million in the final week of the campaign."

  • 'Blind Hate' Is Fueling Sharron Angle's Funding  Jon Ralston at The Las Vegas Sun argues that "hatred" is what funded Angle's record haul of $14 million. She has a real, "unparalled (except, perhaps, for Barack Obama in 2008)" grassroots effort with an "incredible" 161,358 people sending her checks of $200 or less. "Of those small contributors, my guess is only a handful of the 161,358 people know much about Angle," ventures Ralston. But they do know about Harry Reid, and their dislike for the House Majority Leader is fueling Angle's surge. "Team Reid has understood this mental state for a while, which is why it has adopted a scorched-earth policy of its own, determined that if their guy is all but in ashes they have to take the blowtorch to Angle," he concludes.

  • Angle Won't Have a 'Meltdown' like some Democrats are predicting, hedges John L. Smith at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "The Angle I’ve been watching this past year rarely has a problem under pressure when going up against opposing candidates and perceived enemies in the mainstream media." She probably won't wilt in the debate and "she’ll be studious. And she can take the stage with the knowledge that all but a small fraction of the voting public has already made up its minds in this race." Harry Reid, Smith writes, is "now the underdog."

  • Reid Is Counting On Thursday's Debate The Hotline's Jeremy P. Jacobs concludes that Reid is "chomping at the bit" to debate Angle tonight. "Campaign sources say there has been a deep frustration that Angle has avoided the media and, thus, avoided saying much on the record," writes Jacobs. "Reid needs a strong performance to show Angle is unfit for office. He has been unable to do that so far with a barrage of TV ads."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.