Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remains in a dead heat with Republican challenger Sharron Angle in several polls, but he’s crushing her in the endorsement competition.
If this were a boxing match, the referee would have stopped the fight as a bloody battering. Trouble for Reid is, this isn’t a boxing match. The effectiveness of his endorsements will only be known on Election Day.
This past week, Reid received the qualified endorsement of a clearly uncomfortable Bill Raggio, the legendary Republican state senator from Reno, and a more comfortable embrace from former first lady Dema Guinn, widow of Nevada’s popular Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn.
How much that matters depends on the voters. How much do endorsements count in the year of the Tea Party? How much do you respect the endorsers?
And, finally, how much do you dislike Harry Reid?
For Nevadans who hate him, a heavenly shout out delivered through parted clouds wouldn’t be enough to make them cast their ballot for Reid.
For others, the “Republicans for Reid” endorsements might be approaching a critical mass.
Conservative political observers made great sport of political spinmeister Sig Rogich’s early embrace of the Democrat and the whole Republicans for Reid strategy. As the catcalls went, those Republicans were either already cozy with Reid or possessed enough business savvy to benefit from a relationship with the Senate’s most powerful Democrat. They weren’t real Republicans, but Republicans In Name Only.
Angle’s supporters laughed when former first lady Dawn Gibbons came out for Reid. Gibbons was a lightweight, they said, and an ex-assemblywoman and also-ran congressional candidate with a grudge against Angle and a certain sitting governor.
On it’s gone as one after another mainstream Republican has shrugged and stepped toward Reid, often with great reluctance.
Now comes Raggio, the Legislature’s Emperor of the North. At 83, he’s the state’s longest-serving legislator and arguably the most respected Republican in Nevada politics. That respect, however, does not emanate from Angle’s camp, which has called Raggio a bitter grudge-bearer who is still sore about Angle’s unsuccessful bid to unseat him in a close 2008 primary.
Of course the proud Raggio was angry. She called him a liar and a RINO. In endorsing Reid, Raggio offered, “He must vote more strongly to represent the views of his Nevada constituency in the future rather than a liberal agenda which many feel drifts toward Socialism in America. With that caveat, I will reluctantly vote for Senator Reid’s re-election.”
That’s not gushing enthusiasm, just a measured affirmation from a man who loves Nevada and believes Angle would be ineffective.
Raggio isn’t some pigeon-hearted Republican. For decades he’s tried to represent the best tenets of his party. But Raggio is a pragmatist, not a hard-core true believer. In this year’s GOP, that makes him a Model T at a monster truck rally.
Angle, meanwhile, has been endorsed by the Review-Journal, former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, current Rep. Dean Heller, former Gov. Bob List, and current state GOP Chair Mark Amodei. Casino men Sheldon Adelson and John Ascuaga are named as Angle’s top Nevada donors. Absent from the official list is U.S. Sen. John Ensign, former Sen. Paul Laxalt, Senate primary opponent Sue Lowden and other top Nevada Republicans.
By far Angle’s longest list of endorsements comes from national organizations and politicians: Mitt Romney, Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and members of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Jim DeMint, and so forth.)
Well and good, but narrowly focused.
Meanwhile, for months Reid’s team has used its Republican endorsement project to chip away at Angle inside her own motivated but conflicted party. Even presuming there aren’t more bombshells between now and early voting, Reid’s strategy has been an unqualified success.
But how much will it matter?
That all depends on you.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.