Given how deep is the animosity in Nevada against Harry Reid (that is, of the slight majority who have a negative opinion of the 28-year Washington veteran), all Sharron Angle, his Republican opponent on this fall’s ballot, needed to do in their sole debate last night was show that she’s not the extremist his camp has made her out to be.
While his nasty ads have upped her unfavorables, such that a majority of Nevadans see her as extreme, those opinions aren’t as deep as their feeling for Mr. Reid. After all, she’s only been on their radar screen for a few months while he’s been a force in Nevada politics for decades. It will take longer to reduce his negatives than to cut hers.
The general consensus is that Angle did what she had to do (and then some) last night. Over at National Journal’s Hotline, Lindsey Boerma and Josh Kraushaar sum it up, “Throughout the Nevada Senate campaign, it was Republican Sharron Angle who looked unprepared for-prime-time. But after last night’s debate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looked more like the gaffe-prone politician as he struggled to make headway in one of the closest and most consequential Senate contests.”
The problem with a demonization strategy based on voter unfamiliarity with a candidate is that the candidate usually gets a chance to either confirm or destroy the impression before an election takes place. Harry Reid gambled on painting Sharron Angle as a nut, but in the end it was Reid who struggled to explain himself in the only debate in the Senate race for Nevada. Veteran political analyst Jon Ralston, no fan of Angle, declares her the winnersimply by showing Nevadans that she was far from the portrait of a lunatic that Reid had painted
Michelle Malkin reports that “channeling Reagan’s warrior optimism,” Angle responded to Reid’s condescension with a smile, asking “for Nevadans’ votes to restore prosperity and freedom and American exceptionalism. Without notes.” Wondering if she scored a TKO, John Hinderaker thinks her performance last night may have helped her seal the deal, “Angle’s positions on the issues are more popular than Reid’s, and if she held her own and gave as good as she got, as was evidently the case, the debate should give her a boost.”