Nevada polls making Reid, Dems nervous. Do they matter?

Public polls this week indicating that Republican Sharron Angle holds a slight lead in the Nevada Senate race are making Democrats and insiders in Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign nervous, according to several reports.

CNN reported Thursday it was hearing privately from senior Democratic officials that they "are growing increasingly concerned that Reid just can’t seem to get past the low- to mid-40’s in various polls" despite weeks of making the case that Angle is an extremist.

"These same senior officials said they are also worried the percentage of people in Nevada saying they will vote for the ‘none of the above’ option is decreasing," and some of them seem to be choosing the Republican.

Politico today reports the three most recent public polls that show Angle up are "unnerving Democrats." They fear the Republican’s campaign "is surging despite enduring millions of dollars worth of TV attack ads."

The piece (written by former Review-Journal reporter Molly Ball) says Reid’s campaign insists there is nothing to fear. But it quotes one unnamed Democratic strategist in the state as saying "Reid’s people are really antsy."

The strategist said part of Reid’s strategy now is to discredit the recent polling. Politico reported Reid pollster Mark Mellman was drafting a memo to reassure staff and donors.

Mellman insisted to the newspaper the campaign’s internal polls show Reid "consistently ahead."

The polls were released this week by Fox News, CNN/Time and Rasmussen Reports. All showed Angle up by two to four percentage points, within the margins of error.

In the New York Times today, polling expert Nate Silver issued a caution about the methodology used in the Rasmussen and Fox surveys. Still, he said "Nevada had long been in a stalemate, and even if these reeds of evidence are thin, they are enough for the forecasting model to make Ms. Angle a 66 percent favorite, up from 56 percent last week."

But Walter Shapiro, writing online for Politics Daily, says 2010 may be the year that the polls are turned on their heads.

"Never has there been an off-year election with such a perplex of polls, such in-depth public debates over polling methodology, such over-hyped political projection systems and such pseudo-certainty in early October about the outcome," he writes.

"This is a strange year – and it is possible that both parties (plus the press pack) are all flying blind," Shapiro writes. "In my off-the-record conversations as a reporter, I have talked with Republicans who are more subdued in projecting GOP gains in November than their Democratic counterparts. Sometimes, in fact, I wonder if the private predictions of political insiders say more about their personal bio-rhythms than any secret knowledge."

And Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report says Reid’s standing in the polls may be "less meaningful" due to the complexity of Nevada’s ballot, which will list six third-party candidates as well as "none of the above." She reminds those options could provide a "landing place for anti-Reid votes that would otherwise go to Angle."

In its report, CNN spoke to an unnamed Reid adviser who said it was no surprise the incumbent was in an uphill fight.

"There’s no news in this recent series of polls," the adviser said. "We’ve always known it would be close. But in the end he is going to win. The ground game is going to come through, and Reid is going to be able to pull it out."

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