By Ron Bonjean, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
After the Nevada primary, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is still fighting an uphill battle. Democratic strategists are now seeing new signs of life in Reid's campaign based on the Nevada primary GOP selection of Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle. The thought process is that Angle will blow up during the next five months by stumbling rhetorically and that her past statements will give the Democrats ammunition to paint her as extremist to independent voters.
But many pundits forget that in Nevada, there is a 14 percent unemployment rate--a tough environment for any incumbent. On top of that Reid, a four term senator, has a 41 percent approval rating. Winning is going to be tough to pull off. So instead of highlighting a campaign of solutions to create jobs and better income for Nevadans, Reid’s campaign is going to employ a scorched earth strategy? It seems the Democrats would rather have it be a choice rather than a referendum on Reid’s leadership.
This is a dangerous road for Reid’s campaign to follow since the majority leader seems addicted to making high profile gaffes. It feels like it was just yesterday that Reid called President Obama a “light skinned” African American who lacked a “Negro” dialect except when he decided to use one. Another such moment came when he praised the opening of the Capitol Hill Visitors Center and said, “In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true.” Angle has made some extreme statements as well that will also be used against her. Just imagine the televised debates with both sides throwing boomerangs of rhetorical screw-ups at each other.
Independent voters are looking for more than a Machiavellian showdown intended to shred the other side. The antidote to this poison will be for Angle to win over independents and keep her conservative base by finding ways to appeal to centrist voters without giving up her principles. The people of Nevada were promised change they could believe in and that life would be dramatically better with Reid in charge of the Senate. She should clearly outline state solutions for state problems and hold Reid accountable for his failed promises. Having fresh blood means making some mistakes and I am sure that Angle will make plenty of them during the remainder of the campaign. While the Democratic strategists are now less pessimistic, it is hard to see Reid winning based on going nuclear in Nevada.