Reid vs. Angle -- Here's the proper breakdown


On primary election day, before Sen. Harry Reid's opponent was set, I made this observation:

"There's not much middle ground with the electorate on Sen. Reid. Of course, he has his die-hard supporters and they are with him today as they will be in November. But everyone else wouldn't cast a vote for Reid if he were the only candidate on the ballot.

"Reid's difficult challenge is to fracture that anyone-but-Reid vote."

Of course, I've been telling you about the strange but very real disconnect between Sen. Harry Reid and Nevadans for years. And that factor will be "the" factor in the November election.

Now post election with staunch conservative Sharron Angle surging to gain the GOP nomination against Reid, comes no less a political observer than George Will making the same point.

You can find him talking about Reid and other primaries here. You'll have to wade through a commercial. Once you do, skip to 4 minutes 25 seconds into the video, there you will find Will speculating that "on a good day" Harry Reid might get 43% of the vote. His task is to split the opposition vote six ways so that his chief rival, Sharron Angle gets one fewer vote than he does in November.

You can quibble with Will's numbers, but his premise is exactly right. Harry Reid is such an unpopular figure in Nevada today, he has no chance of recapturing the hearts and minds of the Nevada electorate. He needs to hold his union-powered Democratic base (can't afford the loss of even 1% of that group) and then try to make his opponent look even weirder than he is.

Harry Reid's popularity for the last two years has been tracking in Las Vegas Review-Journal polls in the mid- to high-30% range. That indicates that no amount of spending to polish HR's image between now and November will cause one voter currently leaning against Harry Reid to thump his forehead like a V8 commercial and say "Oh, I get it. Now I'm voting for Harry Reid."

It's amazing that a man of Reid's tenure and stature is now reduced to that kind of hail-Mary strategy.

But he is.

And you read about it here first. And for a long time, the only place you could read about it was here.

Selected other "full-time" political pundits have been noticeably late to understand the mood of Nevada voters. They still don't quite get the depth of the so-called "Reid-fatigue" (which really doesn't fully explain Reid's phenomenal unpopularity here, BTW), or the passion of the Tea Party movement nationally. That's because these selected other political pundits in Nevada are personally liberal and root for progressives to win and conservatives to fail. These "observers" of Nevada's political scene, I promise you, will be gleeful helpers in the Reid strategy to demonize Angle.

If you'd like to put this pundit bias to the test, I invite you to follow (and read) any one of them on Twitter for a day or two. (Believe me, that's as long as you'll be able to stand it.) Jon Ralston, for example, could not have been more biased in his Twittering post primary election Day. His theme was quite clear -- Angle bad (ha, ha, ha), Reid good (yes, yes, yes). Ralston is one of several who feed off each other's biases, re-Tweeting snarky posts until eventually they become like those buzzing vuvuzelas at a World Cup match.

As a sidebar, I'd invite you to participate in my "Jon Ralston Drinking Game" this election season. The rules are simple: Each time in his Las Vegas Sun newspaper column Jon offers a critical analysis of Sharron Angle, pour yourself a shot. And each time Jon offers a critical analysis of Harry Reid, drink the shot.

If you're NOT into drinking; you'll love this drinking game. Since there's never -- ever -- been a critical staff-written story or column of Harry Reid in the Las Vegas Sun, I doubt Ralston will muster the integrity to break that ground.

The point is in this most interesting race for U.S. Senate, Harry Reid has remarkably few options. Assuming Angle doesn't make any unforced errors (like Sue Lowden's "chicken barter" comment), she's the big favorite -- or a better way to put it is Harry Reid remains the big un-favorite.

George Will says 43% is the most -- the most -- Harry can ever hope to get in the General Election. I'd say the over/under number for Harry is more like 39%. If Nevada's economy continues to tank, and President Barack Obama sinks further into the national perception of incompetency, Sen. Reid may not get to 35% -- and that's a losing hand no matter how you cut it.

If this race is going to be close in November, Reid and friends will have to cast a mighty doubt over the head of Angle. To do that, they'll need to make a few things up and stretch the truth to define Angle negatively early and often.

Reid can't win on the strength of who he knows in Washington, or the passage of health care (which Nevadans absolutely hate, BTW), or what Sen. Reid theoretically might do for Nevada in the future. Those arguments play to his base only ... and no one else in Nevada.

The politics of personal destruction is Reid's best -- and only -- chance of survival.