LAS VEGAS — Sen. Harry Reid and his Republican challenger Sharron Angle have been pummeling each other for weeks with attack ads. Now they have the chance to do it face to face.
The Democratic majority leader and the tea party favorite square off Thursday in a televised debate that could help determine the neck and neck race.
The Las Vegas debate is the only scheduled meeting before the Nov. 2 election. Early voting begins Saturday and Angle has said she would not debate after that because she wants an "informed electorate."
With both candidates tied in the polls and only a handful of voters undecided, any hint of a gaffe or an unrestrained gesture during the hourlong debate could sway the race's outcome.
"Each of them are going to try to minimize their mistakes, but they have to be very careful about style," said Dan Hart, a Las Vegas Democratic consultant. "You don't want to be seen as beating up your opponent."
Public speaking isn't a strong skill for either of the gaffe-prone candidates.
Reid, a fourth-term incumbent, has praised President Barack Obama's absent "Negro dialect" and deemed New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand the Senate's "hottest member."
Angle, a former state legislator making her first statewide run, has hinted that voters might take to "Second Amendment remedies" if Reid is re-elected and mused that some American cities are grappling with a "militant terrorist situation."
It will be an introductory meeting for many voters, whose contact with the candidates have mostly been limited to a flood of bruising ads since the June Republican primary.
Reid has portrayed Angle as a crazy extremist who wants to protect foreign workers and sex offenders.
Angle has painted Reid as a shadowy politician whose backroom deals have benefited illegal immigrants and child molesters.
More than 70 journalists are expected to attend the debate, including reporters from Japan, England, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Security will be tight following a series of brawls and arguments between Reid and Angle supporters at previous campaign events.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.