What happened in Nevada?

Looking at the vote in Nevada on a county-by-county basis, I am struck by how poorly Sharron Angle did. The Republican congressional candidates (there were three of them) ran ahead of Angle in all 17 Nevada counties, usually by a considerable margin.
Consider Washoe County, the state’s second most populous. Republican Dean Heller trounced Democrat Nancy Price 80,055 to 51,571. Yet Angle lost the county to Reid, 70,263 to 63,216 (voter registration is divided evenly between the two parties). In Carson City, Heller defeated Price by margin of more than 2-1. Angle, though, could only edge Reid by a margin of 9,352 to 8,714.
Expecting Angle to match Heller, a popular Republican incumbent, vote-for-vote is unfair. But consider Clark County. The vast majority of voters there were represented by one of two Democratic incumbents – Dina Titus (who lost on Tuesday) and long-serving, popular Shelly Berkley. Reid outpolled Angle in Clark County by approximately 60,000 votes. The Democratic congressional candidates outpolled the Republican candidates by only about 39,000.
By my calculations, Angle could have just about won the race by matching the Republican congressional candidates in Clark County and reversing the Reid-Angle tally in Washoe County (which still would have left her 10,000 votes behind Heller’s performance there). And that’s without any changes in the other 15 counties where Angle underperformed (often substantially) in comparison to the congressional vote.
Most conservatives, including me, were overly optimistic about Republican chances in the Senate. This was due, I think, to our understanding that this was a wave election and our faith that the Senate vote would pretty fully reflect the wave.
It didn’t in Nevada. The reason can be debated. The possibility that the Republicans nominated a much less than optimal candidate cannot be dismissed.
NOTE: This post has been modified slightly to clean up the math.

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