Guy Benson
Just over one month ago, I offered this analysis of the Nevada Senate race:

The Angle campaign should have [October 14th] circled on its calendar. It's one month from tomorrow. Attacking Reid in ads, no matter how effective, can only go so far.  I suspect many Nevadans will tune in to the October 14 debate not to evaluate Harry Reid, whom they already know and detest, but to take measure of Angle.  The debate could prove to be a crucial fulcrum point: If Angle can present herself as a viable alternative to Reid and a plausible US Senator, she may very well surge ahead for good.  If she falters or badly missteps, Reid could survive.

Last night delivered the moment of truth, and Angle clearly passed the plausibility test.  Both candidates stumbled through bouts of inarticulateness, and neither scored any major points.  By not losing, Angle won.  The only memorable moment of the evening came when Angle looked directly at Reid and told him to "man up" on Social Security, following a disingenuous, nothing-to-see-here answer on the program's glaring solvency problem

Also striking was Reid's inability to answer questions with a simple 'yes' or 'no,' as requested by the moderator.  On two occasions, the TV presenter sought to elicit one-word responses to very basic questions.  The first was whether the candidates would support a constitutional amendment establishing English as the official language of the United States.  Angle said yes.  Reid responded, "English is already the official language."  Aside from being five words too long, it was also incorrect.  Heritage's Brian Darling punctures Reid's hypocritical and dishonest response:

There is no amendment to the constitution making English the official language.  As a matter of fact, Reid attacked Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) proposal to make English the official language of the United States as “racist” merely four years ago on the Senate floor

According to a May 18, 2006 story in the Washington Times:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called a proposal to make English the official language “racist” on the Senate floor yesterday.  “This amendment is racist. I think it’s directed basically to people who speak Spanish,” the Democrat said during the already tense debate over immigration reform. 

The other interesting yes/no query related to abortion.  The were asked whether government-enacted healthcare reform should include funding for abortions.  Angle emphatically said no.  Reid then stammered his way through an explanation of the Hyde Amendment, and refused to utter either 'yes' or 'no'--even after the moderator specifically asked for a one-word answer for a second time.  Reid's muddled point was that Obamacare maintains current law, and that abortions will not be funded under the new law.  As many pro-lifers know, that's not necessarily true:

In July 2010, the Congressional Research Service found that Obamacare did indeed allow federal funding for abortions through high-risk pools created and entirely funded by the federal government. The Executive Order doesn’t prevent abortion funding through high-risk pools.

Reid's hedging and irritating refusal to just answer yes or no--as he was asked to do, and as Angle did--probably damaged his credibility.  His verbose evasiveness likely led many viewers to (correctly) suspect he was spinning, if not lying.

Another low point for Reid came when he asserted that the only reason some people may feel they "aren't doing better" under Obamacare is because they "don't understand the law."  This statement is both false and condescending, which might as well be the Democrats' slogan this year.

One of Angle's strongest moments was her response to a gotcha-style question about her past comments suggesting it isn't a Senator's role to create jobs.  Her original comment was stated inartfully, and Reid demagogued the hell out of it.  This time around, she explained her position smoothly and convincingly.  US Senators don't directly create many jobs, she said, but they are tasked with crafting and encouraging policies that allow the private sector to expand and hire.  Well played.  Angle also landed a solid blow during an exchange about Reid's infamous "war is lost" remark.  As Reid danced gingerly around the subject, Angle stepped in and demanded the Senate Majority Leader apologize directly to the troops he'd maligned.  His rebuttal was to mention an endorsement he's received from a military group--a weak, self-centered response.

Throughout the hour-long exchange, I occasionally winced at Angle's phraseology and stilted delivery, but the overriding question that kept cropping up in my mind was, "How on earth did Harry Reid ever become the most powerful person in the US Senate?"  Advantage: Angle.

Video of the full debate is available HERE.

Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography