Politics & Policy

Nevada Senate (Initial) Autopsy Report

Sharron Angle is not going to be the next senator from Nevada.

The country’s most symbolic and closely watched contest was called for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid early Wednesday evening, a win he pulled off despite extremely high negatives and the dismal state of the state economy.

With roughly 60 percent of the precincts reporting, Reid led by a margin of 50 to 45 percent. That margin narrowed briefly, then widened again. Fox News called the election for Reid; other national outlets soon followed; the victory speech came at just before 11 p.m.

This wasn’t Reid’s first rodeo, but as electoral battles go, he said, “I have to admit, this has been one of the toughest.”

Nearly every pre-election poll showed Angle with a small lead. Some said she was surging. They were wrong.

Some questioned the survey samples and poll results. They were right.

In the end, Angle was beaten by her own negatives — somewhat self-created but also driven up by a relentless and ruthless Reid campaign — along with a notable lack of support from numerous prominent Republicans, and the state Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote machine.  

The Tea Party vs. Democratic Establishment face-off was intense. In the end, Reid defeated the grassroots-funded grandmother from Reno and re-proved that messaging matters.

The Reid campaign set out to define Angle as an extremist in the six post-primary weeks during which she was scrambling to raise money and hire a staff. It largely succeeded, and at times Angle helped them along with past and present impolitic statements that were featured in campaign ads. Undoubtedly, Angle wishes she could take back a pre-primary interview or five.

It is never easy or entirely graceful when a candidate who is comfortable well to the right on the political spectrum has to slide to the center for the general election. Angle was less artful at it than many, in part because she often said exactly what was on her mind first and answered questions later. 

Or not.

Angle’s avoidance of the media made said media rather unhappy, but it may also have disappointed some voters who were looking to her to step up, step out, and speak plainly, no matter which reporter’s microphone was in front of her.

None of this absolves Team Reid from running a scorched-earth campaign that sometimes painted Angle as so far to the right she had fallen off the planet.

Angle won the only debate, but apparently it did not make enough of a difference.

Reid will return to Washington the victor.

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