By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
As the candidate farthest from the GOP mainstream, former Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle’s come-from-behind win in Tuesday’s Senate primary looks at first blush like Harry Reid’s fondest wish had been realized.
In reality, the early polling makes it seem that he is still in a fight for his political life.
Angle starts off well positioned against the veteran Democrat, whose leadership of the Senate has seen Reid embrace positions that are none too popular with the folks back home in what is fundamentally a conservative state.
A Rasmussen poll released Thursday shows an 11-point bounce in her numbers coming off her victory in the primary, meaning she begins the race with a 50 percent to 39 percent lead over Reid. Pollster Scott Rasmussen says the data shows the race “continues to be about the incumbent, who earned 61 percent of the vote when he was reelected in 2004 but whose support in this election cycle against any Republican candidate has never risen above the low 40s.”
Angle’s challenge now is to establish early that she constitutes an acceptable alternative to Reid, that she meets a minimum threshold of credibility that will allow her to weather the attacks that Reid surely has in store for her. It is not enough for her to drive Reid’s negative’s up--if they can go any higher--but to do what she can to keep as many voters feeling positive about her as she can. So far she’s making progress.
“Despite their hotly-contested primary,” says Rasmussen, “Republicans already appear to be solidifying behind Angle--who now earns 88 percent support among voters in her party. Reid draws 68 percent support from Democrats. Voters not affiliated with either party prefer Angle by 10 points.”
The challenge ahead for the Democrats is to make the race all about Angle, and with Reid’s estimated $9 million in the bank they have the resources with which to do it. The challenge the GOP faces is to keep the race about Reid and his record. If they can, and some of the GOP’s best national operatives are already being called in to the state to make sure the campaign doesn’t implode before it starts, then they have a pretty good chance of putting this one in the win column come November.