Is Harry Reid the comeback kid of 2010?
That’s the spin Democrats are pushing these days as Republicans inch toward an unpredictable Senate primary Tuesday. The GOP race in Nevada is being closely followed by tea party activists who list the Senate majority leader as their top target this year. The tea party’s laser-like focus on Reid became evident in March, when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin traveled to his hometown of Searchlight to address the Tea Party Express as it kicked off its national campaign tour.
“We're taking our country back, and we're starting right here in Nevada,” Palin told the roaring crowd.
For the first time in months, however, a new poll shows the Democrat leading all three major Republican challengers. The DailyKos survey shows that Reid, while still drawing less than 50 percent, holds the widest lead (six points) in a race against former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R), a Tea Party favorite, who recently pulled ahead in the GOP contest. Other polls show similar trends in Reid’s favor.
Angle is billing herself as the undisputed pick of conservative activists. In addition to the
, she enjoys the backing of Joe the Plumber and the Club for Growth, among others.
But Angle’s gains have come mostly at the expense of former state GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden, who watched her once-sizable lead diminish this spring following a series of tactical missteps. Most notably, Lowden suggested in April that people might be able to barter for their healthcare.
“Before we all started having healthcare, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor,” she said. Democrats pounced, launching a “chickens for checkups” ad campaign.
But Democrats didn’t stop there. Party strategists, who view Lowden as the only viable challenger to Reid this fall, have unleashed a fury of eleventh-hour spending to try to sink her campaign. In its latest TV ad, the Patriotic Majority, a political action committee run by former Reid staffer Craig Varoga, hits Lowden for raising taxes and fees and sponsoring a bill as a state senator to charge $100 for noncombat veterans to be buried in veterans cemeteries in Nevada.
The third Republican in the race is real estate developer Danny Tarkanian, son of legendary former University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.
Awaiting the GOP nominee is Reid, who has proven his ability to win tough campaigns over 40-plus years in Nevada politics. Indeed, while he's never been particularly popular among Nevadans, insiders say, Reid is a crafty and ruthless brawler who found a way to scrape out victories in eight of 10 elections for five different offices.
Reid, who has campaigned in Nevada with President Obama, drew an even more popular Democratic fundraiser to the Silver State this week: first lady Michelle Obama. “Presidents can’t do anything if they don't have a good team,” she told a crowd of fewer than 300, “and Senator Reid is part of that team.”
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