LAS VEGAS -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hung on Tuesday for victory against tea party favorite Sharron Angle (R), winning a fifth term in the Senate and surviving a national Republican wave that appeared poised to sweep the Nevada Democrat from office only months ago.
Reid declared victory just before 11 p.m. local time in front of a cheering crowd insulated from the Republican wave that put more than 55 House Democrats out of office across the country.
On stage with his wife, Landra, Reid offered a visibly heartfelt "thank you" to the hundreds of volunteers and staff from both Washington, D.C., and Nevada who were gathered in the convention center of the Aria Hotel and Casino to celebrate the Majority Leader's surprisingly solid victory over Angle.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Reid said amid chants of "Harry, Harry, Harry" and "Si se puede," Spanish for "Yes, we can."
"Yes, we did," Reid responded.
Reid, saying his victory was about more than just himself, made no mention of Angle, although he alluded to her when he said: "Today, Nevada chose hope over fear. ... Nevada chose to move forward, not backward." Throughout the campaign, Reid warned that Angle's conservative philosophy would move Nevada and the country backward.
Reid's victory ensures he will continue as Senate Democratic leader and staves off a potentially messy caucus succession fight between Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Conference Vice Chairman Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.).
The Reid campaign has said for months that its superior voter-turnout operation would overtake Angle's small but steady lead in public polling over the campaign's final days, and their confidence appears to have been confirmed. Despite Angle's fundraising prowess, it appears that she was never able to shed the label of "extremist" she earned because of some of her more controversial conservative views.
Angle led Reid by 2.7 points, 48 percent to 45.3 percent, in the final RealClearPolitics.com average of all surveys taken of this race. Her loss has to be considered a blow to tea party activists, who helped her win a contested GOP primary over Sue Lowden, the establishment favored considered more viable in the general election.
Durbin and Schumer were expected to make a run for leader if Reid lost, but neither is likely to challenge Reid for the leader post now, despite a bad election night elsewhere for Democrats.
Among other Democratic losses, incumbent Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.) appeared headed to defeat, and Democrats lost several open-seat races as well. But Reid is unlikely to bear the brunt of the blame; Democrats instead are blaming history and the economy for their electoral fate Tuesday night.
One senior Senate Democratic aide noted Tuesday that the party of the president usually loses seats in midterm elections and that Democrats were already in an untenable position of trying to defend many seats in states or districts that voted for GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008.
In addition, the sluggish economic recovery set up a losing battle for many Democrats, despite what they say were herculean efforts to ratchet up voter turnout.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the leader is not focused on the blame game, preparing instead to get back to work for the lame duck session that starts Nov. 15.