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Running uphill, Harry Reid fails to break away

In June, following the nomination of Sharron Angle by Nevada Republicans as their Senate candidate, Harry Reid launched a series of attack ads that portrayed Angle as too extreme for Nevada. Reid had been hoping Angle would be nominated, and wasted no time in attempting to blow her our of the race.
At first, this tactic seemed to be working. A Mason-Dixon poll gave Angle with a 3 percentage point lead over Reid just before she was nominated. By mid-July, the same organization had Reid ahead by 7 points.
However, the impact of Reid’s preemptive attack seems to have worn off. Two recent Mason-Dixon polls have Reid only fractionally ahead (by 1 and 2 points, respectively) and Rasmussen now has Angle leading by 2 points. In short, the race is a toss-up.
It’s not difficult to see why Reid has been unable to break away from Angle. As Elizabeth Crum at NRO’s Battle ’10 blog reminds us, Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Based on U.S. Labor Department statistics, Nevada;s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation Research and Analysis Bureau reports that state-wide unemployment stands at 14.3 percent. Moreover, if one takes into account individuals who have stopped looking for work, the state’s unemployment rate through the second quarter of 2010 was 21.5 percent.
Harry Reid’s signature response to unemployment has been the stimulus bill. Passed in early 2009, the stimulus was intended to improve the employment picture. However, Nevada’s current unemployment rate of 14.3 percent compares unfavorably to a 12.3 percent rate in July 2009.
In this context, the Reid campaign’s unfounded claim that the stimulus enabled us to avoid Great Depression levels of unemployment rings hollow. In fact, by a margin of 43-29, more Americans believe the stimulus hurt the economy than helped it. By a margin of 69-15, Americans believe that tax cuts are a better way than increased government spending to stimulate the economy.
Harry Reid has been able to stimulate (at least temporarily) anti-Angle sentiment, but he and his party have been unable to stimulate the economy. We’ll soon see which phenomenon means more to Nevada voters.

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