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Last Week's Hearst Column on Nevada

^A GOOD ELECTION WAGER: BET ON NEVADA

^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@<

^By BOB FRANKEN@=

^C.2010 Hearst Newspapers@=November 20, 2010

WASHINGTON _ How appropriate that Nevada has become a showplace for voters deciding whether the Tea Party is worth a gamble. Look no further than the spread...in politics we call them polls.

Every credible survey taken in the state shows that Harry Reid and Sharron Angle are even money leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

Who could have expected such a nose-and-nose race between the Democrats' No. 1 man in the U.S. Senate and a seemingly long-shot challenger like the Republican/TP's Angle running on the fringe?

Harry Reid is splattering her with mud, running ads that call Angle ``Extreme and Dangerous,’’ citing her past comments like ``...if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really going to be looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.’’

Reid, the four-term incumbent and the leader of his party in the Senate, should have been an odds-on favorite to win again. The problem is that he comes across as a bit odd himself...definitely not a smooth talker. Maybe it's because HIS foot is so often in his mouth, like last March when he declared on the Senate floor: ``Today is a big day in America. Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good.’’

Correction, senator. That was definitely bad. The gaffe is on you. In addition, you had painted Angle as such a ditz that she benefited from the lowered expectations you created for her in your debate earlier this month. You didn't decisively put her away, and in this game of chance a tie goes to the challenger.

The problem for the party is that Reid as Senate majority leader may be leading his fellow Democrats out of the majority in Congress. ``Far out’’ is the new ``in,’’ and in state after state, the financiers and the other high rollers who usually hedge their bets are betting on those who seem to thrive on pejoratives like ``loopy’’ or worse.

The Angle campaign, for example, raised $14 million in the third quarter, according to the Federal Election Commission, while Reid pulled in about $2 million. Across the country Tea Partiers and Republicans in general are raking in the cash.


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A consensus has spread that the Republicans are probably going to take over the House of Representatives as a result of the Nov. 2 elections. Now, election analysts are saying that the chances of a new Senate Republican majority have gone from ``improbable’’ to ``possible.’’ They base that on the growing number of too-close-to-call races, ranging from five states (Real Clear Politics) to 11 states (The Cook Report.) Both lists include Nevada.

Nevada also has another choice on the ballot: NOTC as in ``None of These Candidates.’’ But in reality NOTC is NARA (Not a Real Alternative) because even if NOTC gets a majority of votes, the rules say somebody has to win and the second place winner is the victor. NOTC at least provides a chance to protest for voters who think they only have a choice between Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber.

With its 25 per cent Hispanic population, largely Democratic, there was a conservative group promoting a variation of that. Latinos for Reform sponsored an ad that says in part, ``Don't vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message.’’ It caused an uproar, but this entire election has been an uproar.

Harry Reid likes to brag that as a former boxer, he's a fighter. But if he does get knocked out, he wouldn't be the first top Democrat to topple. Tom Daschle was the Senate majority leader until South Dakota's 2004 matchup. An even better example would be then-House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., who was defeated in 1994. That was the year of the GOP congressional takeover.

With its dismal statistics for unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures, Nevada is the leading example of a nation in bad shape. It could shape up as the leading indicator of whether disgusted voters are ready to go for broke and let the chips fall where they may. This may be the year that what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t stay in Las Vegas. It goes across the country.

^--@<

(E-mail: bob(at)hearstdc.com. On the Web: www.bobfranken.tv)

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