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Change you can count on: Five key districts

Reid's numbers drop

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A new independent poll conducted in Nevada shows that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D) is totally known and not particularly well liked by the state's electorate, a dangerous combination for the four-term incumbent.

Republican strategists quickly jumped on other numbers in the Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey -- Reid's favorable number (38 percent) is outstripped by his unfavorable (49 percent), and he trails former state party chairman Sue Lowden (R) and businessman Danny Tarkanian (R) in head-to-head matchups. But the most damning data point in the survey is that no voters said they were not familiar with Reid.

What it means is that voters think they know Reid and don't like him, as evidenced by his fav/unfav numbers. It's why his early advertising (more than $550,000) to date has focused on what he has done and what he can do for the state.

Reid's best, and perhaps only, path to reelection is to turn the contest into a transactional affair. He can't win a personality battle, since a near-majority of people in the state view him unfavorably.

Reid does have a recent blueprint for that sort of transactional campaign in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who focused on what he had delivered for the state in his 2008 reelection race. McConnell, of course, had advantages Reid doesn't enjoy: He is from a state inclined to support his party, and his numbers, while not great, were not nearly as miserable as Reid's. A corollary to Reid's situation may be this year's New Jersey governor's race, in which the unpopular Jon S. Corzine (D) was not reelected despite a flawed challenger who ran a less-than-stellar campaign.

The next year will be a test of Reid's political acumen. Although he doesn't face an opponent of the caliber of Sen. John Ensign (circa 1998), Reid's numbers are far worse than they were 10 years ago.

Players

Joan Fitzgerald, former president of the Colorado state Senate and unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 2008, has taken over America Votes.

The liberal organization, which was formed during the 2004 presidential election, is designed to help coordinate grass-roots efforts by progressive interest groups. Fitzgerald is the fourth president, taking over from former congressman Martin Frost (D-Tex.), who guided it during the 2008 election. Executive Director Greg Speed praised Fitzgerald's "unique understanding among elected leaders of the vital role of America Votes' impact." In the last election, America Votes spent nearly $12 million on its coordination efforts in 14 states.

Countdown

One day: Massachusetts Democrats pick their nominee in the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. State Attorney General Martha Coakley is the heavy favorite.

33 days: Assuming Coakley gets the Democratic nod, she will move on to face state Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the special general election to fill Kennedy's seat.


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