Will 'None of the Above' Swing Nevada's Senate Race?

Ballot quirk could give Harry Reid an edge

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Nevada is a proud state with an idiosyncratic political tradition, including at least one quirk that is wholly unique in American politics: voters have the choice of casting a ballot for "None of These Candidates." (Colombia, Greece and the Ukraine have similar systems.) While this option typically receives a minuscule amount of support, it was enough to play spoiler back in 1998 when Harry Reid was able to win election by 425 votes thanks largely to 8125 ballots cast for 'None of These Candidate.' With Reid locked in another tough reelection fight this year against Republican Sharron Angle, could "no one" once again save the beleaguered majority leader? A sampling of opinions from around the web:

  • Reid's Wild Card  According to the most recent CNN survey, ten percent of Nevada voters are backing 'None of the Above', compared to 40 percent for Reid and 42 percent for Angle. That's good news for the majority leader, explains The Hotline's Jennifer Duffy. While "conventional wisdom says that any incumbent who is locked in a competitive race and is sitting at or under 46% on the ballot test this close to Election Day is doomed," 'None of These Candidates' "provides a landing place for anti-Reid votes that would otherwise go to Angle." In Duffy's estimation, this creates a scenario in which "Reid can win re-election with less than 50%, much like he did in '98, and makes his current standing at 46% less meaningful."

  • Slow Republican Response Writing in his Huffington Post blog, John Chacas--who ran against Angle in June's Republican primary--admires Reid's political cunning and wonders if national Republicans truly appreciate the intricacies of Nevada politics. By encouraging moderates who don't want to vote for him but are wary of Angle to choose none of the above, "Reid has embarked on a very shrewd tactical play: define Sharron Angle as just 'extreme' enough to move Independent voters into the 'None of the Above' column." So far, Republicans have failed to launch any sort of "counter-attack" against this strategy. Republicans, advises Chacas, must communicate and "inform Nevada voters that a vote for 'None of the Above' is, by simple math, a vote for Reid."
  • His Only Chance Reid's popularity with Nevada voters is so low, a strong turnout for 'None of These Candidates' could be his only chance to keep his senate seat, observes Fox's Chris Stirewalt. "Only 63 percent of those backing Angle said they 'strongly' supported the former state senator," compared to 77 percent for Reid, Stirewalt notes. "If enough of Angle’s lukewarm supporters ditch her in favor of a protest vote, Reid can win the election and not move much beyond the 44 percent he garnered in the poll."
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