Sept. 16, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Is Reid Better Off Than He Was a Week Ago?

The post-Nevada primary chorus was loud and clear last week after former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle won the GOP Senate primary and the right to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in November.

Everyone seems to think that Reid is measurably better off now than he was before the primary and that he now has a 50-50 chance of winning another term. Everyone but me.

Unfortunately for me, it looks as if my opinion of Reid has changed because my newsletter now has the race rated as Tossup/Tilt Republican instead of Lean Takeover, which it was previously.

But until this week, we used a Tossup/Tilt category only in rating House races, not Senate contests. In choosing to make the Rothenberg Political Report House and Senate rating categories identical, we adopted the House categories for Senate races as well, which means introducing Tossups that tilt to each party as well.

Had we had a Tossup/Tilt Republican category available to us six months ago, we probably would have had Reid in that category rather than putting him in Lean Takeover. But we didn’t have that option, and we didn’t think he had anything close to an even chance of being re-elected, so we had to move him to Lean Takeover. So that’s where he landed.

In putting Reid into the new Tossup/Tilt Republican category, we are reiterating our view that the Senate Majority Leader is in a very competitive contest and that he is more likely than not to lose his bid for a fifth term.

But Reid obviously has the resources — and now a potentially vulnerable target in Angle — to change the likely outcome of the race, so it bears watching.

Still, I don’t believe that last week’s primary fundamentally changes the Nevada Senate race. I don’t believe that the race is a pure Tossup.

It was clear even before the Senate primary rolled around that Silver State Republicans wouldn’t be nominating a tested, charismatic, politically safe candidate against Reid.

None of the three “top” Republicans — Angle, former state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden and two-time unsuccessful candidate Danny Tarkanian — had the kind of profile, experience and obvious savvy to compete against Reid in a neutral environment.

Lowden, who was once thought to be the GOP’s “best” candidate, turned out to be less than compelling. And, as national Republican strategists point out quite fairly, if she couldn’t beat Angle for the nomination, how was she going to beat Reid?

If Angle wins, she wouldn’t be the first flawed hopeful to make it to the Senate, even from Nevada. In 1982, Chic Hecht (R) defeated Sen. Howard Cannon (D), even though the Almanac of American Politics described Hecht as “short, speaks with a squeaky voice and a lisp, and is anything but a brilliant phrasemaker.”

Given all of these considerations, Angle’s primary victory doesn’t dramatically alter Reid’s prospects for the fall.

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