Sharron Angle ducks under a tent canopy protecting Las Vegans from the scorching sun as they watch a couple of dozen cute karate kids perform on stage at Lorenzi Park. She swoops in on Elita Pallasigui and thrusts out her right hand for a shake.
"Hi, I'm Sharron Angle. I hope you'll vote for me," she tells Pallasigui, one of several hundred people at Saturday's Filipino Festival, a treasure trove of potential voters packed in one place.
"Yes, I will," says Pallasigui, a Republican and Veterans Administration nurse who doesn't like the new health care law pushed by Democrats. "We need to replace Harry Reid."
Score one vote for Angle. She may need at least 40,000 to 50,000 to win, or about one-third of what some predict could be a Republican primary turnout of 140,000 or more voters on Tuesday.
Angle, the surging GOP front-runner in the U.S. Senate race, has the momentum going into Tuesday's election in a hard-fought, three-way race the country is closely watching because the winner will face the embattled Democratic incumbent Reid in the fall. Turnout is key and the GOP nominee is expected to win by the slimmest margin, perhaps a percentage point or two.
The contest has come down to this: Angle's big momentum and conservative Tea Party backing versus Sue Lowden's big machine to get her identified voters to the polls, a machine built with the help of the former Nevada Republican Party chairwoman's GOP ties and a well-funded campaign staff.
Working on the sidelines, Danny Tarkanian is still hoping for his big moment, reaching for a long-shot chance to steal the GOP nomination if former Lowden supporters jump to him in vote-rich Clark County and come his way in rural Nevada, where Angle is seen as stronger.
"We still very much believe we can win this election on Tuesday night," Lowden campaign manager Robert Uithoven said Sunday. "We are the campaign that has the best ground game."
As for Angle, she said she is "cautiously optimistic" she'll win, and she's got a rag-tag army of several hundred volunteers helping her as well as big-money outside conservative groups.
"I don't think I've ever lost my focus in this campaign," Angle told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Saturday. "I think Harry Reid's policies are just wrong for Nevadans."
In these final hours, the handshake-to-handshake combat is fierce between the surging Angle and Lowden, whose hopes dove as she came under withering attack by the Democratic Party, front groups running sharp ads against her and the Reid campaign, which has targeted her since last fall.
Lowden's campaign believes it has won the majority of early GOP voting in Clark County, which ended Friday after a two-week period, although Tarkanian's people contend he has won the early balloting in the south. But the Lowden operation also concedes that, historically, Angle is the better performer in primaries, especially on her home turf in Northern Nevada, where she has trained precinct workers for years.
As a result, Lowden shifted her schedule over the weekend to concentrate on half a dozen rural counties where Angle surged in 2006, when the former Reno assemblywoman nearly beat Secretary of State Dean Heller, losing by just 428 votes in the primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Heller went on to win the U.S. House seat in the general election that year.
Lowden's endgame centers on the battleground counties of Carson City, Churchill, Elko, Lyon, Nye and Douglas, one of the most Republican counties in the state where in 2006 Angle went from being down 11 points before the primary to winning by 7 points, Uithoven said.
After campaigning in Las Vegas Saturday morning, Lowden went to Douglas County that night. On Sunday, she was in Fallon, Winnemucca and Elko, according to Uithoven.
Angle's campaign was more secretive about its strategy, with some worried that the GOP competition would try to undermine her and her corps of ground troops knocking on doors and making calls, promoting her message of less government, less taxes and less federal intrusion in states' rights.
On Saturday, Angle campaigned in Las Vegas, spending more than an hour at the Filipino Festival and then attending a volunteer picnic before heading to Reno. On Sunday, she attended church and planned to focus the rest of the day and today up north, according to her campaign.
Tarkanian, a Las Vegas businessman and former University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball player, spent the weekend in Southern Nevada. He also sought votes Saturday at the Filipino Festival and on Sunday attended church, a fundraiser, a meet-and-greet event and walked door to door with volunteers seeking support.
Today , Tarkanian is scheduled to do a couple of conservative radio talk shows and campaign in Sparks and Reno. He spent the past few weeks campaigning in rural Nevada, conducting two dozen meet-and-greet events in three weeks.
All three top Republicans in the dozen-strong GOP field plan to end primary election night in Las Vegas, including Angle who has gone from being little known in politically powerful Southern Nevada to having statewide recognition of 94 percent, according to the latest Mason-Dixon poll.
But the race is to the finish, and there's an anything-can-happen air ahead of Tuesday.
More than one in 10 voters remain up for grabs, according to Mason-Dixon, which found 13 percent of GOP primary voters still undecided as of Tuesday through Thursday of last week, when the telephone survey was conducted.
"We know we have to make a closing argument to them," Uithoven said of undecided voters.
Lowden's closing argument is that she's the only Republican who can beat Reid in the fall because she's more moderate and can attract independents and conservative Democrats.
The Tarkanian and Angle campaigns dismiss the notion Lowden is strongest. The most recent Mason-Dixon poll suggested both Tarkanian and Angle could beat Reid if the general election were held today, although he would do better than her, while Lowden now lags behind Reid. That's after Lowden took a pounding for suggesting people could barter for health care, and after Angle got a money-bomb boost of more than $1 million spent by the Tea Party Express and Club for Growth to help her.
That same Mason-Dixon survey showed Angle pulling into a clear GOP primary lead, winning 32 percent support, compared with 24 percent for Tarkanian and 23 percent for Lowden.
At the Filipino Festival, on a day the mercury hit 105, Tarkanian slugged back water as he moved around with his wife, Amy, and their four young children wearing "Vote for my Daddy" T-shirts.
Angle, wearing her own campaign T-shirt and traveling with just one staffer, held an iced tea in one hand to keep the heat at bay, but looked full of energy, doing a little hip-shaking jig and shouting, "Get down!" when she passed a booth blaring dance music.
Lowden posed for photos with supporters in front of her campaign booth, shaded by a tree, and used a giveaway "Sue Lowden" fan to cool her face. Then she took a walkabout to ask people for votes, sending them a not-so-subtle message that she's a fighter by wearing a black T-shirt with the signature initials "MP" for Manny Pacquiao, the famous Filipino boxer much loved in Las Vegas.
"They're throwing everything they have at me --Â even the kitchen sink -- but I'm not giving up," Lowden tells one supporter. "Harry Reid doesn't want me to come out of this primary, but I will."
As for the Reid campaign, it spent the weekend researching Angle.
The incumbent's team is "doing nothing different than usual," said Kelly Steele, communications director for the Reid campaign, adding they are "ready to take on whoever wins Tuesday."
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.