Nevada Voters Confront Stark Choice In Senate Race Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is up against Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, a former state assemblywoman who even some fellow Republicans find too extreme. Polls show a dead heat. Voters have until Friday night to cast early ballots.
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Nevada Voters Confront Stark Choice In Senate Race

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Nevada Voters Confront Stark Choice In Senate Race

Nevada Voters Confront Stark Choice In Senate Race

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly in for Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

If you want to know which way the Senate is going this fall, take a look at Nevada. The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is fighting to keep his job against Republican Sharron Angle. Now, if Reid should win, he would keep his leadership post, and it starts to look more likely that Democrats would retain control of the Senate. If Reid should lose, Republicans still have at least a shot of taking over that house.

Nevada voters have until tonight to cast early ballots and NPR's David Welna reports from Las Vegas that many already have.

DAVID WELNA: This week at an Albertsons supermarket in Las Vegas, you could gamble your grocery money at the video poker machines lined up along one side of the lobby or you could mark an electronic ballot at a bank of portable voting machines lined up along the other side and improve the winnings odds for either Harry Reid or Sharron Angle.

One early voter there, 59-year-old Mary Ann Smith, says she reluctantly chose Reid over Angle.

Ms. MARY ANN SMITH: I'm afraid of her. She's - she's out there, as far as I'm concerned. It's not that I like Harry that much, but I'm just leery of Sharron.

WELNA: Casino dealer Larry Shepard also voted for Reid. The four-term senator, he says, has delivered for Nevada.

Mr. LARRY SHEPARD (Casio Dealer): He's brought jobs here. As much as people think he hasn't, he has. He's there's been a lot of jobs brought here.

WELNA: That's not how Sharron Angle's supporters see it.

Robert Rendon, who's a registered Republican, says he was willing to vote for anyone so long as it wasn't Reid.

Mr. ROBERT RENDON: Look at the situation he put us in. I mean, the highest in unemployment, the highest in losing homes, people losing their houses, I mean Jesus Christ, he ain't helpin' us, that's for sure.

WELNA: Seventy-eight year-old Mary Ann Sheldon also voted for Angle.

Ms. MARY ANN SHELDON: But of course I would've voted for almost anybody to try to get rid of Harry Reid. I do not like Harry Reid.

WELNA: Such resentment, says University of Nevada political scientist David Damore, is precisely why Reid, for all his power in Washington, could well be toppled by his fellow Nevadans.

Professor DAVID DAMORE (University of Nevada): What we've seen in Nevada, I think, is - as you've seen a lot of other states, is just this sort of anger, this inchoate anger lashing out at the establishment, right, that if you're establishment, you are part of the problem.

WELNA: At a recent get-out-the-vote rally the other day in Henderson, Nevada, Harry Reid seemed to feel obliged to defend his record even with a crowd of supporters.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): We've been going through a lot in Nevada. For 20 years we were at the top of the economic food chain, and when Wall Street collapsed, we fell further than anyone else. But I want everyone to know here, it isn't a secret: I didn't cause the financial collapse.

WELNA: Later, I asked Reid why many voters believed he'd not done enough for Nevada.

Senator REID: I've done the best I can, doing everything I can to help the state of Nevada, but whoever is concerned about my not doing enough should understand that Sharron Angle has committed to doing nothing. She wants to throw sand in the gears, she wants to slow things down, she wants to get rid of Social Security, Medicare, Department of Energy, Department...

WELNA: Reid continued listing what he called Angle's wild and extreme ideas.

University of Nevada political communications expert Joseph Valenzano says Reid cannot win by running on his own accomplishments.

Professor JOSEPH VALENZANO (University of Nevada): Really the one determining factor for who's going to win is going to be about who has effectively made the election about the other person.

WELNA: While Reid's been going after Angle in public gatherings across the state, his Republican opponent was nowhere to be found and did not respond to an interview request.

Angle has instead been flooding the airwaves with anti-Reid ads that hit the illegal immigration hot button.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man #1: Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our borders, joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear. And what's Harry Reid doing about it? Voting to give illegal aliens Social Security benefits, tax breaks and college tuition.

WELNA: This ad released this week juxtaposes shots of dark-skinned, menacing-looking youths with scenes featuring threatened-looking white people.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man #2: Harry Reid, it's clear whose side he's on and it's not yours.

WELNA: One out of four registered voters in Nevada is Hispanic, and some Republicans say Angle is doing their party no good by running such ads, which Latino leaders have condemned.

Sig Rogich advised both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He's organized more than 400 prominent Nevada Republicans to support Reid and oppose Angle.

Mr. SIG ROGICH (Political Consultant): Her position on Hispanics is outrageous. You know, she has no desire to bring them into the process, and I think the Republican Party recognizes that, they have to move into that mainstream to be successful. So I just think it would be a tragic mistake for Nevada to have that woman in the United States Senate.

WELNA: But Angle's counting on winning over more voters than she loses with such ads, and as for who'll come out on top next Tuesday, all bets are off.

David Welna, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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