They thought he was done; they were even fighting for his job. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid kept his seat Tuesday night, sending challenger and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle packing. Reid was an incumbent and a Democrat in a cycle that favored neither, and he was running in Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country. His victory, then, is seen as one of the biggest upsets in the 2010 race. Here are the early takes on how he did it and what it means.
Why It's a Big Deal "Nevada is ground zero of the country's foreclosure crisis," points out Samuel Jacobs at The Daily Beast. "One of every 25 homes in Las Vegas is underwater. Unemployment hovers above 14 percent. All of which makes it a tough time to be an incumbent, let alone Senate majority leader, dedicated to bringing home the bacon ... Sharron Angle, running with a crusader's faith and Annie Oakley's gusto, hoovered in nearly as much cash as the mighty Reid."
How'd Reid Pull It Off? John Yang for NBC explains: "A look at interviews with voters as they left the polls suggests it was by making Sharron Angle, his Tea Party-backed Republican opponent the issue, not the economy." Yang notes that
in the closing days of the campaign, Reid's TV ads pounded away at Angle, painting her as extreme and out of the mainstream ... At the same time, Reid's get-out-the-vote operation capitalized on Angle's tough stand on illegal immigration to mobilize Hispanics, who turned out at a greater rate than in the 2008 presidential election and voted for Reid, 66-31. And Reid got help from organized labor, as union households voted for him 69-29. In this contest between the grassroots intensity of the Tea Party movement and a well-oiled campaign machine, the machine won.
John Kerry: Reid Is a Vampire, Possibly a Biblical Figure Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts had this to say about Reid's victory: "Politico was wrong, Huffington Post was wrong, hell, all the pundits were wrong. Harry Reid isn't just Dracula, he isn't just Lazarus, he's our Leader and our whole caucus is thrilled that he's unbreakable and unbeatable."
He'd Have Lost Against a Less Nutty Candidate, believes Steve Kornacki at Salon. "It doesn't take a PhD to realize that Reid's victory had everything to do with the liabilities of Angle," Kornacki writes. "A more conventional Republican opponent would have had little trouble defeating Reid in this climate. In this sense, the Tea Party can be directly blamed for the reelection of the Senate majority leader; it was, after all, the GOP's Tea Party base that insisted on Angle's nomination."
- Not So Much Reid's Victory As Angle's Defeat, agrees John McCormack at The Weekly Standard. "Angle lost because she was a deeply flawed candidate," McCormack writes. "Perhaps the lesson of the 2010 Senate races is that candidates matter ... Voters were simply turned off by Angle, who had a 53% unfavorable rating. Like Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell lost a Senate race in Delaware that another Republican--whether Mike Castle or Delaware's version of Ron Johnson or Kelly Ayotte--probably would have won. Perhaps this is a lesson that Republicans will heed as they head into 2012."
It's the Tea Party's Fault James Joyner at Outside the Beltway adds to the chorus. Reid, says Joyner, "was ridiculously unpopular" and "would surely have lost running against any other conceivable candidate but the stupid, crazy woman the Tea Partiers backed." Joyner says the Nevada seat was one the GOP could have picked up for a chamber majority if they'd run a more mainstream candidate.