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Perhaps more than any other campaign in the country, Republicans and Democrats are betting that race could be the trump card in Nevada.
Indeed, Latinos have been accusing the state’s tea-party-backed Republican Senate candidate, Sharron Angle, of race baiting by running ads with ominous-looking Hispanic men crossing the U.S. border.
Angle’s campaign, meanwhile, has begun to charge her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with “playing the race card” as he seeks to capitalize on Angle’s gaffes in front of local Latino students and a GOP ad urging Hispanics to not vote.
Both candidates clearly see the immigration issue as one that has the potential to get their base voters to the polls before or on Nov. 2. And it appears to be resonating, even though the state is suffering from more than 14 percent unemployment and the economy had been seen as the issue that would dominate the campaign.
“It depends on who ends up winning that motivation battle,” said one GOP strategist familiar with the Reid-Angle contest. “Angle is trying to motivate voters who are angry with our broken borders ... versus Reid trying to motivate Hispanic voters.”
The strategist added that it’s difficult to discern whose voters will be more fired up when the final votes are cast.
“He has helped us motivate our people just as much as she’s motivated his,” the strategist said.
Reid’s campaign appears to have been invigorated in recent days after a video surfaced Monday of Angle telling a group of Latino high school students that the menacing men in her anti-immigration ad were not necessarily Hispanic. To prove her point, she told the Hispanic Student Union at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, “I don’t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me.”
The same day, an outside group run by a GOP activist announced it would begin airing ads encouraging Nevada Hispanics to sit out the election as a protest against Democratic leaders’ inaction on immigration reform this year. Bowing to pressure from Hispanic leaders, the Spanish language television network Univision decided not to air it.
Though Reid was criticized for not being aggressive enough against Angle in their sole debate last week, Reid went on the offensive this week with biting attacks on Angle.