Nevadans would like a do-over.
Two-thirds of voters who say they back Sharron Angle wish another Republican had won the nomination, according to a poll for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and 8NewsNow that shows deep dissatisfaction with both the Tea Party pick and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.
Nearly eight of 10 voters who remain undecided or who don't like Angle or Reid say they, too, would have preferred if the staunch conservative hadn't won the June 8 primary over her more moderate foes. And 58 percent of such nonaligned voters say they wish Reid hadn't won the Democratic nomination, suggesting a majority of Nevadans are unhappy with their choices.
That's still largely good news for Reid and troubling for Angle. A year ago, the unpopular incumbent was thought to be on his way out. Instead, he's locked in a dead heat with a vulnerable GOP opponent as he runs a scorched-earth campaign to portray her as too extreme.
"Republicans thought they had this race in their pockets, but they've seen Harry Reid rise again to make it close," said Brad Coker, head of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. "The only reason it's close is they've got a candidate who's being seen as a little out of her league."
But Reid shouldn't take too much comfort in any anti-Angle feeling, including among those who will decide the race: nonpartisan voters and those who say they don't prefer either nominee and might even vote for "none of these candidates" on Nov. 2.
"These people are having a tough time voting for Angle, but they're also looking for somebody other than Harry Reid," Coker said, adding that the dismal economy plays in Angle's favor. "That's her ace in the hole no matter how she performs. This is going to be a choice of the lesser of two evils."
Reid and Angle have been running neck and neck for a month, according to several Mason-Dixon polls. In the latest survey of likely Nevada voters, Reid got 45 percent support compared with 44 percent for Angle, a statistical tie. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Another 5 percent were undecided, 4 percent picked "none," and 2 percent other candidates, according to the telephone poll of 625 likely registered voters taken Monday through Wednesday.
Reflecting hardened views of Reid, his unfavorability ratings remain high and nearly unchanged from past surveys: 52 percent have a negative opinion of him, while 39 percent have a favorable view, and 9 percent are neutral. Two weeks ago, the numbers were 51-40-9.
Voter opinion of Angle is still shifting. She is seen unfavorably by 43 percent and favorably by 32 percent compared with 45-37 two weeks ago. Another 24 percent have a neutral opinion compared with 17 percent two weeks ago, suggesting a quarter of Nevadans still have an open mind.
Still, the Mason-Dixon poll shows Angle has a way to go to shore up her base of GOP support and attract conservative Democrats who do not like Reid and non-partisan voters she will need to win.
Some 68 percent of those surveyed said they would have preferred if a candidate other than Angle had won the GOP primary. Among them were 71 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of nonpartisans and 64 percent Democrats. Among Angle voters, 66 percent said they would have preferred another GOP nominee, as would have 68 percent of Reid voters and 79 percent of those in neither camp.
"It means she hasn't closed the deal to get all Republicans behind her," said Eric Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. "But it's good news for Angle that two-thirds of those who really aren't wild about her are still willing to vote for her" to get rid of Reid.
But it's those 79 percent who are in neither camp that Angle must win over, he said.
Reid has similar problems but to a lesser degree.
Some 49 percent said they would have preferred another Democrat nominee over Reid, including 28 percent from his party, 66 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of the undecided or those aligned with other candidates.
Among Reid voters, 18 percent preferred another nominee, 78 percent of Angle voters did not want him on the ballot as well as 58 percent of those who do not like Angle or Reid.
"It's not a strong endorsement of Harry Reid, but it's better than what Sharron Angle has," Herzik said. "A centrist Republican, I think, would be winning this race against Harry Reid."
So what's keeping Angle alive and Reid in danger of losing?
It's mainly strong voter discontent with the economy in Nevada -- which has record high unemployment, bankruptcy and home foreclosure rates -- and disagreement about the direction of the country, according to Herzik and the findings in the new Mason-Dixon survey.
Forty-seven percent of Nevadans surveyed said President Barack Obama's actions to stabilize the economy have hurt the nation's economic situation, compared with 29 percent who said it has improved things.
Another 18 percent said Obama's actions had no effect, and 6 percent weren't sure.
"This race is about the economy, and we will make it very clear that Harry Reid's policies are what's causing this economy to be so toxic here in Nevada," said Jarrod Agen, communications director for Angle's campaign. "One thing that's uniting a lot of people is they're tired of Harry Reid."
Agen said the poll shows that Angle has withstood Reid's constant barrage of attacks against her and remains a threat while Reid has not been able to pull away.
He said that doubts about Angle's electability were caused by "a summer full of negative ads" and that the campaign would focus on redefining Angle, a former Reno assemblywoman with a record of voting to cut spending and keep taxes low.
"The good news for us is there's room for Sharron Angle to grow, while Harry Reid is a known entity and there's nothing that will compel some people to go over to his camp," Agen said.
Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers said the survey shows that "Sharron Angle is in serious trouble, and Republicans have major buyer's remorse."
"Sharron Angle is spending money faster than it's coming in and, combined with Karl Rove's shady front group, she has outspent our campaign by more than a quarter million dollars in the last two weeks without moving the needle," Summers said. "After throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Senator Reid, support for Angle's extreme and dangerous agenda is as low as ever."
Danny Tarkanian, one of Angle's vanquished GOP rivals, helped launch a political action committee to defeat Reid by examining his votes. Tarkanian said most of his supporters will back Angle, and he thinks she has a chance to win if she can focus the race on Reid and the economy.
"It's not too surprising that people are worried about her because Reid has spent a lot of time and money to marginalize her and demonize her," Tarkanian said. "I think if I were in the race, or Sue (Lowden) were in the race, we would have higher numbers, but Reid would be doing the same thing. If the race is about Angle, or Lowden or myself, Reid wins. If it's about Reid, Angle will win."
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.