POSTED: 6:40 p.m. HST, Nov 2, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 1:57 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2010
LAS VEGAS » Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survived a ferocious challenge from tea party star Sharron Angle yesterday to win a fifth term, giving the White House reason to celebrate on a night of sweeping Democratic losses in Congress.
It was not easy. At midyear Reid appeared headed for defeat as Nevada suffered with the nation's worst unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. But he told voters that no one could match his clout on Capitol Hill, and warned that Angle would usher in an era in which Social Security and Medicare would be on the chopping block.
Reid promised to return the state to prosperity, and he depicted Angle as a fringe conservative whose policies would hurt Nevada families.
An Angle win would have made her Nevada's first female senator and earned Reid the indignity of becoming the first Senate majority leader to lose re-election since Arizona's Ernest W. McFarland in 1952.
Reid's platform was power. The 71-year-old one-time boxer touted his ability to bring federal money to his home state -- no one could do more, he argued -- and played up his role salvaging the Las Vegas Strip's massive CityCenter development, in which he pressured bankers to keep money flowing, and his hand in killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump. He had the backing of the powerful casino industry and the union members who work in it.
But Angle saw Reid as part of the problem -- a Democratic-led Congress broadening government's reach into places it shouldn't go, while accelerating spending and debt. She called Reid "the poster child of what's gone wrong in America."
The majority leader struggled for months to hold voters' confidence in a state battered by the economy. On his watch, tourism dropped, jobs vanished and homes and condos stood unsold around the state. The face of Washington authority, Reid sidled close to President Barack Obama, even as the Democratic president's popularity slipped.
At one point, polls showed Reid losing to any of several potential Republican candidates.
Reid has survived close races before -- in 1998 he was re-elected by 428 votes.