Senate Majority Leader Reid beats back Nevada challenge by tea party's Angle

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going back to Congress. The Democratic leader seized a fifth term Tuesday after a vicious battle with tea party representative Sharron Angle.
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 9:19 AM

LAS VEGAS - Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada beat back a scrappy challenge from tea party favorite Sharron Angle, offering Democrats a rare and high-profile victory on an otherwise difficult night for Democrats across the nation.

Reid said Wednesday morning that the Senate's shrunken Democratic majority will have to find a way to collaborate with GOP lawmakers, both in the Senate and in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"History dictates that we have to work together. Gridlock will not do the trick," Reid told MSNBC in an early-morning interview. "We need to set aside our speeches and start rolling up our sleeves and have a little sweat on our brow."

The Associated Press and several news networks called the race for Reid shortly after 9:30 p.m. local time Tuesday. Reid, 70, the son of a miner from tiny Searchlight, Nev., ended up with 50 percent of the vote statewide, compared to 45 percent for Angle.

"Today Nevada chose hope over fear," Reid told a cheering crowd in a packed ballroom at Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. "Nevada chose to move forward not backwards. Nevada made this choice because we know it's not about us versus them. It's about every Nevadan, all of us in this together."

That enthusiasm belied the conditions in which Reid scratched his way to victory, in a state where he remains deeply unpopular and where the economic conditions that led to Republican wins across the country are even more dire.

Reid was already known as a gaffe-prone, awkward public figure before Nevada earned the dubious distinction of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the nation. He watched his approval ratings plummet this year because of those grim statistics, as well as his association with President Obama's agenda: the health-care overhaul, the stimulus bill and financial regulatory reform.

Nonetheless, Reid and his staff executed a masterful campaign, going back to the spring, when he helped Angle win the Republican primary by going after the person he viewed as his more formidable potential opponent: casino executive Sue Lowden. The hope in the Reid camp was that Angle's outside-the-mainstream conservativism would enable him to defeat her easily in the general election. Among her well-documented declarations: support for ending Medicare and Social Security, abolishing the Energy and Education departments, and vastly reducing the size of government.

Reid hammered Angle on those positions in television ads that ran for months. He highlighted a list of scores of prominent Republicans, including the mayor of Reno, the chairman of MGM Resorts and the first lady of Nevada, who endorsed Reid over Angle because of her extreme views.

"Republicans around this state are supporting me," Reid told a group of reporters Tuesday morning during a stop to cheer on volunteers at his campaign office in Summerlin, west of the Las Vegas strip. "They're not doing it because they are suddenly becoming Democrats. They do not want a Republican Party with her brand on it."

Angle attracted support across the nation from tea party activists, but she rarely directly challenged Reid's portrait of her, generally avoiding media appearances and ducking news outlets for much of the campaign.

The Nevada Senate race will be broadly interpreted as a repudiation of Angle's embrace of the tea party movement's anti-government fervor, but it could just as well reflect a calculated choice of the lesser of two evils.

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