Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won re-election, the Associated Press reported, overcoming unpopularity with Nevada voters and a slugfest with Tea Party- backed Republican Sharron Angle, who labeled him out of touch with the state’s economic woes.
Reid, 70, avoided becoming the third Senate party leader since 1952 to lose re-election. He led Angle 51 percent to 45 percent of the vote with 41 percent of precincts reporting, according to the AP.
Angle, 61, a former state legislator, had won her party’s nomination by defeating the state Republican establishment’s choice in a primary. Angle said Reid and his fellow Democrats in Congress had reneged on their 2008 election promise of change, delivering only high unemployment and mounting government debt.
Nevada’s unemployment rate of 14.4 percent, the nation’s highest, plus the highest mortgage foreclosure rate in the U.S. were fodder for Angle’s attacks on Reid and President Barack Obama. Reid was also dogged by voter disapproval ratings that hovered around 50 percent.
The campaign was marked by sharp partisan and personal attacks in ads and on the stump over the economy, immigration and what Reid called Angle’s “extreme” opposition to government.
She campaigned against big government, arguing that Obama’s economic stimulus that Reid helped push through Congress didn’t spare Nevada from severe economic pain and created a “cloud of uncertainty” for business.
In one Angle ad that opened with a picture of Reid, Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a voice said “they promised change” in 2008 “but they delivered unprecedented spending” and “heartbreaking job loss” and “astounding foreclosures.”
With Nevadans given a ballot choice to vote for “None of the Above,” Reid’s strategy was to characterize Angle as a dangerous extremist. He highlighted her proposals to abolish the U.S. Education and Energy departments and advocacy, at one point, of phasing out Social Security.
“She has changed a little bit” on Social Security, “but the words are still code words for getting rid of it,” Reid told MSNBC on Oct. 29.
He also said Angle had called Social Security a “wicked program” and equated beneficiaries with “welfare recipients.”
“This is a woman that just does not believe in government, period,” Reid said.
One Reid ad reminded voters of Angle’s comment that “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are looking toward those Second Amendment remedies,” a reference to the part of the U.S. Constitution that protects the right to keep and bear arms.
Bill Ames, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of Nevada, said he, too, asserted his constitutional right to bear arms but “what she is actually talking about is armed resistance.”
Ames said “that kind of talk is dangerous and way too extreme.”
Another Reid ad labeled Angle “pathological.”
Reid, the son of a miner, frequently mentioned his hard-scrabble upbringing in Searchlight, Nevada, where his mother took in washing from the local brothels. He still lives in the town where he grew up when he is in the state.
Angle, stressing her middle-class roots, tried to portray Reid as someone who had used political office to enrich himself.
During their only debate of the campaign, Angle noted that when Reid is in Washington, he lives at the Ritz-Carlton and asked him “how did you become so wealthy on a government payroll?”
Reid called the question a “low blow” and replied that he had been “a very successful lawyer” and “did a very good job investing.” The Senate Democratic leader, who put himself through law school at Washington’s George Washington University by working as a U.S. Capitol Police officer, listed assets worth as much as $3.6 million on his 2009 financial disclosure report.
Reid served in the Nevada legislature for two years in the late 1960s, served four years as lieutenant governor and chaired the Nevada Gaming Commission. He was first elected to Congress as a House member in 1982 and won election to the Senate in 1986.
Angle told Reid during their debate to “man up” and face the impending insolvency of Social Security, an assertion the Democratic leader dismissed as inaccurate. “Her facts are absolutely wrong” because Congress “has time to fix it,” he said.
Angle scored a Republican primary upset with Tea Party backing to defeat former state party head Sue Lowden for the nomination to run against Reid.