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September 1, 2015

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Jon Ralston:

Atmospherics are terrible for Reid, but he will hold on

Harry Reid or Sharron Angle is dead, last in an occasional series:

It just feels as if Reid is going to lose.

Forget the enthusiasm gap — that word is too mild. There is a passion gap in this race that is palpable. You don’t find many people shivering with excitement to vote for Reid. But the feverish animation of voters hot to oust Reid is unlike anything I have experienced in nearly 25 years of covering politics. And it seems to have been building since January, evidenced by Reid’s inability to move his highly elevated disapproval rating.

It just feels as if he 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.

How? Let me count the ways:

Considering they were dealing with a moribund politician, and one who was sure to make their job more difficult during the year with his spontaneous effusions, 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.

It’s possible none of this made any difference, that Reid has been dead all along and no amount of campaign brilliance or Angle exposure could resuscitate him. The hatred is palpable, the discontent bubbling over. But I think he finds a way to survive.

The result: Reid, 47 percent; Angle, 45 percent; rest, 4 percent; none of the above, 4 percent.

Some other predictions:

Governor: When you have a 40 percent negative going into a race because of your last name, you have to either 1) Not run; or 2) Delicately distance yourself from Dad and then destroy your opponent. Rory Reid probably should have chosen 1) and he failed to execute 2).

Brian Sandoval, 51 percent; Reid the Younger, 42 percent; rest/none, 7 percent.

CD3: Rep. Dina Titus & Co. have gone out of their way to blacken Joe Heck — tying him to Angle, distorting his legislative record, airing a brutal closing spot starring a cop denied insurance coverage. But despite her money advantage, Titus simply can’t stanch the bleeding among independents — and I think that costs her the race.

Heck, 48 percent; Titus, 46 percent; rest, 6 percent.

Legislature: Democrats have a 12-9 edge in the state Senate. It will not change. Benny Yerushalmi will take Dennis Nolan’s seat, but state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse will lose. In the Assembly, Democrats have 28 seats. After Tuesday, that number will be 25.

Miscellany: I have a feeling one or two constitutional officers could lose. I fear the appointing judges question will lose. I think Shelley Berkley and Dean Heller will be re-elected — after Tuesday’s carnage clears, I may need those to boost my average.

ralstonflash@gmail.com / 890-7997

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