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Harry Reid makes campaign official, says ‘much work to be done’

Updated Monday, March 8, 2010 | 2:09 p.m.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, center, (D-Nev.) smiles during President Barack Obama's town hall meeting at Green Valley High School in Henderson Friday, February 19, 2010.

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Sen. Harry Reid made his candidacy official Monday morning, filing to run for a fifth term in what experts say could be the most expensive and hard-fought race in the country.

The Senate majority leader is in a fight for his political life. He suffers from abysmal approval ratings and trails the two leading Republican candidates seeking the chance to take him on in November. The GOP has routinely hammered him on the state's unflagging jobless rate, arguing that he has failed to use his clout to help his home state.

On Monday, Reid seemed to recognize the perils of running for re-election at at a time of political paralysis in Washington, where efforts to reform health care have been stalled. He acknowledged "there is much work to be done."

To be sure, Reid also noted his accomplishments, including winning federal dollars -- more than any other state per capita -- to help homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages and dealing with foreclosure. He also touted his role in pushing the Senate to pass a jobs bill and defeating Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits.

“While we have made significant progress through the Recovery Act and other measures to prevent this recession from becoming a depression, there is much work to be done," Reid said. "We must never forget our fellow Nevadans who are suffering during this economic downturn."

He added: “I have a vision for Nevada that will create jobs, keep people in their homes, diversify our state’s economy and make health care affordable."

Sue Lowden, the former Nevada GOP chairwoman who is leading the Republican field, seized on the latest unemployment numbers for Clark County, which surged to 13.8 percent in January. She questioned whether Reid had done enough.

"Hardworking Nevadans are hearing today's unemployment announcement and once again are asking, 'How is Harry Reid really looking out for us?'" Lowden said in a statement. "Hardworking families in Clark County and the entire state of Nevada need positive figures that show job creation, not numbers that indicate a continuing downward spiral with no end."

Indeed, Reid's core challenge will be to sell Nevadans, who are reeling from the Great Recession, on the effects of the federal stimulus, which Democrats and the Obama administrationoversold as a jobs creation bill.

On Monday, Reid cited figures from the President's Council of Economic Advisers, saying that roughly 20,000 jobs have "already been created or saved" in Nevada. That figure puts the state on track to hit the 36,000 jobs promised from the stimulus bill.

One political development may boost Reid’s chances – the entrance of a Tea Party candidate who could split off Republican votes. One poll showed Reid winning if the third-party candidate was in the race.

The chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, acknowledged Monday that he would prefer if Tea Party candidates could be brought into the fold of the Republican primary.

“Third party races are not good,” Cornyn said.

Nevada’s primary is scheduled for June 8. Cornyn said the committee has not yet reached out to Nevadan Jon Scott Ashjian, who is hoping to run as a Tea Party candidate this fall.

"It’s important that their energy and enthusiasm be channeled in the Republican primary process," Cornyn said. "Ultimately it’s about nominating the strongest candidate to run against the Democrat.”

Cornyn, though, believes "Reid is losing," and doubts the senator's $25 million war chest will improve his popularity.

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