Top Nevada Political Analyst: Reid Will Win

Posted: Oct 31, 2010 12:59 PM
One of Nevada's most informed and influential political observers, Jon Ralston, has stepped out onto a limb -- using his Sunday column to predict that Harry Reid will survive the "terrible atmospherics" and win on Tuesday:

It just feels as if [Reid] is going to lose.  But I don’t think he will. Why?

First, let me be clear on this tradition of predictions. It is not a wish list but a walking out on a limb, so I can either crow afterward or eat same. I base them on data I am privy to and my gut. I have had much success in the past — look it up. But if ever there were a year for my lifetime batting average to take a hit, this is the one.

So take this for what it’s worth:

Harry Reid is the most resilient figure in Nevada political history. He should not even be here. He lost a U.S. Senate race in 1974, embarrassed himself in a mayoral race in 1975 and should have lost his re-election bid in 1998. But he found a way to win 12 years ago, and he will again Tuesday.

Ralston outlines the reasons why the data and his gut have led him to his conclusion:

Reid’s handlers have run one of the most spectacular campaigns in history at all levels: The turnout machine is formidable. The TV has been pitch perfect. The strategy — to peel moderate Republicans and independents who might not like their guy away from Angle — has worked.

And, perhaps equally important, Republicans managed to nominate the one person this year who could lose to Reid.

Angle is a natural retail campaigner in small political subdivisions. But that’s not what a Senate race is about. And her campaign never could find a comfortable way to reconcile her past, controversial statements — they tried massage, change and deny — and she made plenty more during the campaign (Sharia law here, Canada’s terrorist conduit, Latinos-in-ads amnesia).

In the end, if she loses, I believe the six weeks following the GOP nominee’s primary win — she had a double-digit lead in June polls — were pivotal. During that period, the Reid ad campaign defined her so starkly and turned enough people into Anglophobes to give him a chance.

One more thing: Republicans do not have the huge turnout advantage in early voting they should in a wave election — under 4 points. And all the data I have seen tell me that unless Reid loses independents by 15 points or so, he will hold on.

That final point is the most worrisome item for Republicans.  All the chatter about enthusiasm won't do Angle a lick of good if actual voter turnout doesn't reflect the much-ballyhooed intensity gap in Nevada.  For what it's worth, Ralston also predicts victories for Republicans Brian Sandoval and Dr. Joe Heck in the  state's gubernatorial and most closely-watched Congressional races, respectively.

UPDATE: Sharron Angle's campaign responds to Ralston's analysis HERE.