U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle on Monday reached out to supporters by phone in a "tele-townhall" with Mitt Romney, a likely 2012 presidential contender. She also spoke to Microsoft workers in Reno before slipping out a side door to avoid reporters. Then she met with 100 people at Stateline beside Lake Tahoe before touring a small business in Carson City.
In contrast to her packed but private schedule, Sen. Harry Reid has been at the center of one public get-out-the-vote event after another. This past weekend, Reps. Judy Chu of California and John Lewis, a civil rights pioneer from Georgia, helped him energize Asian and African-American voters and activists.
"Stand with this good man," Lewis told a rally of about 200 Democrats at Lorenzi Park on Sunday after the two attended several churches. "If you fail to stand with him, history will not be kind to us."
In the most important final week of the campaign, Reid is running for re-election like there's no tomorrow. The incumbent usually holds open events each day to urge his strongest Democratic Party supporters to get people to the polls during early voting heading into Election Day.
His GOP challenger Angle is taking a different tack. She is trying to stay out of the harsh media spotlight and focus on closed-door meetings with conservative backers, working phone banks and going door to door in her campaign style that has led to late surges in the past.
Although their endgame strategies are as polar opposite as their political stances, both candidates in the closest high-stakes contest in the country are doing exactly what they need to do to win, analysts say. Reid is working to scoop up every Democratic vote he can, while Angle is hoping to avoid more missteps and ride GOP and nonpartisan voter unhappiness with the economy and the party in power to victory.
"Reid is trying to show energy and momentum, particularly after the debate" that most observers say gave Angle an edge over Reid, said Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report. "While Angle is working to see if she can make it a week without creating controversy or at least give Democrats enough fodder to create one for her. ... The race is so close that everything matters in the final days."
After one week of early voting, the Senate contest appears as tight as ever. Democrats are showing up at the polls in strong numbers across the state, where they have a 60,000 registered voter edge over Republicans. And GOP voter turnout is running a couple percentage points higher than Democrats, which is typical for midterm elections when the president is not on the ballot.
To help pump up vital union support, Reid is scheduled today to appear at a Reno evening rally with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. The comedian-turned-lawmaker knows something about close races after winning a months-long recount in 2008.
Angle today will launch one last swing through rural counties, according to her campaign, which didn't publicize the stops on the former Reno assemblywoman's schedule.
Joseph Valenzano, a communications professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said he sees a role reversal in the way the two candidates are running their campaigns. Reid's playing the underdog, he said, trying to upset Angle, who almost is ignoring his campaign's relentless barbs.
"Angle is playing this almost like an incumbent: Don't engage Reid, don't give his attacks any credibility," Valenzano said. "Make him seem like the person who's challenging. She's trying to stay above the fray, and trying to stay out of her own way because she creates a lot of errors."
As for Reid, Valenzano said unpopular incumbents often run "almost like an insurgent candidate. He's trying to paint her as someone people shouldn't vote for, which is typically what challengers do."
Angle has focused most of her campaign on blaming Reid for the dismal economy with Nevada suffering from the highest jobless, home foreclosure and bankruptcy rates in the country. Reid has countered by saying she is dangerous for wanting to phase out Social Security and close some federal agencies such as the education and energy departments to give more control to states.
"The winner of this election is going to be the person that makes it about the other person most effectively," Valenzano said. "Reid can't run on his record, so he's running on Angle being too extreme."
The Reid campaign and the Nevada Democratic Party have been trying to capitalize on Angle's most recent flub when she upset a Hispanic high school group by saying some of them looked Asian.
In the closed meeting at Rancho High School a couple of weeks ago, Angle said she didn't know whether her anti-Reid ads on illegal immigration showed pictures of Latinos, although they clearly do. And she suggested the real problem was border security with terrorists able to come into the United States from up north. Both video and audiotape of the meeting leaked to the media, and Reid pounced.
Angle on Monday put out another illegal immigration ad showing images of tough-looking youths to portray Latinos, contrasted with distressed white family members and blond schoolgirls. GOP strategists think the ads have been effective, especially among people who support a tough Arizona law giving police more authority to check for illegal immigrants. Reid, meanwhile, enjoys the support of most Hispanics, who make up 12 percent of the Nevada electorate.
"Harry Reid -- it's clear whose side he is on, and it's not yours," the ad narrator said.
The Reid campaign criticized Angle on several fronts Monday after she ducked reporters in Reno who waited outside Microsoft to ask her about her Hispanic comments. Some reporters said her campaign tricked them by pretending she was coming out the front. The Democratic Party has been stalking Angle events with a person dressed as a chicken to dare her to take questions.
Angle's "racially charged remarks to local Hispanic teenagers have caused an uproar she's refused for weeks to address -- now to the point of using a decoy to avoid pursuing reporters -- despite national and even international attention, and a personal request by those offended for Angle to simply apologize," Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele said in a statement.
"Now, in the ultimate sign of cowardice, Sharron Angle is hiding behind television ads that use the most incendiary images possible to play on Nevadans' worst fears, all to distract from her extreme and dangerous agenda, and the fact she cannot answer for her racially charged remarks and her blatantly false claims her ads are actually about Canada," he added.
The Angle campaign acknowledged she is playing it safe and sticking to her low-profile media strategy in the final stages of the campaign following the candidates' only debate on Oct. 14. She continues to do some interviews with conservative TV and radio, often as a way to raise money.
"Harry fumbled the debate badly and gave us excellent field position," Angle communications director Jarrod Agen said . "When you are on the five-yard line at the end of the game, you don't need to throw the ball deep. You just need to run it in for the victory.
"Therefore, we are sticking to our strategy throughout the campaign: small grass-roots activities focused on turning out the vote," he added.
Agen noted that Angle spoke at a public rally last week with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, although only he took questions from reporters after the event . Angle also plans at least one more public get-out-the-vote rally later this week, but no details were released.
Holding the "tele-townhall" with Romney, a Mormon and former Massachusetts governor who won the GOP presidential caucuses in Nevada in 2008, might help Angle with the conservative Mormon vote because Reid, a Mormon, has lost some support from members of his church.
Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said that throughout the general election campaign, Angle has tried to avoid taking questions from most mainstream press because reporters often focus on her controversial statements instead of on the issues.
"This is a classic Angle campaign. She in a sense goes into the bunker and hides," Herzik said, adding that Angle doesn't have to do as many get-out-the-vote events as does Reid. "Angle's people will turn out. And she will make sure her dedicated base turns out. Reid doesn't have as dedicated a base."
But, Herzik said, Reid's support is much broader than that of Angle, encompassing unions, minorities, liberals and disaffected moderate Republicans whom he has courted.
"He has less enthusiastic voters that he has to turn out," he said. "So Reid is shifting a lot to on-the-ground efforts. They will both spend everything, they will try everything as the campaign winds down."
In mid-October, each candidate reported having about $4 million in campaign funds on hand, with Reid having raised roughly $22 million and Angle $18 million.
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