Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 | 3:45 p.m.
Sen. Harry Reid was in North Las Vegas today, where he visited a Cardenas Market and cast an early vote. It was one of Reid’s first public appearances in the Las Vegas area since he was involved in a car accident last week.
Reid, joined by an entourage that included Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and staff from the Obama for America campaign, spoke of the importance of voting early and talked more about his accident.
“As you know, we totaled three cars. I wasn’t driving, thank goodness,” Reid said. “I thought it was all over with, the crunching and banging, and then we got hit from the side and it threw me into the armrest in the back of that Suburban. And that’s what hurt me.”
“But I’m OK,” Reid said, rubbing the right side of his rib cage, where he said he was still sore.
“There’s not much I can’t do, except I’m not much of a hugger,” he said.
Reid was involved in a five-car pileup Friday in the northbound lanes of Interstate 15, near the Sahara Avenue exit.
He and other staffers involved in the crash were taken to the University Medical Center to be checked out; none suffered anything more serious than minor injuries.
That stretch of highway is considered especially dangerous. Authorities respond to an average of 15 accidents there every 24 hours.
“I have Capitol Police who are trained drivers — they’re professionals, so that’s a very, very dangerous spot,” Reid said. “I don’t know what we can do about it, but that’s up to others. I have enough problems without trying to direct traffic.”
Reid is clearly fully back on the beat of directing political traffic, though, keeping tabs on the Nevada Democrats’ ground operation and conferring with Sen. Patty Murray, the head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee. Reid said he is confident Democrats are doing well in Nevada and across the country.
“We’re virtually ahead in every state,” Reid said. “Now that doesn’t mean we’re going to win ‘em all, but we’re ahead right now. The only one we’re behind in now is Nebraska, and that’s gone from a deficit of some 15 [points] to about three now. So we’re in the money.”
Democrats are defending 23 seats in the Senate this election, as opposed to Republicans, who have to defend 10.
But Democratic candidates have recently been gaining in polls in states where they were lagging, including North Dakota, Arizona and Massachusetts. Reid said that roster includes Nevada, where Democrat Shelley Berkley is challenging Republican Dean Heller, who took over when John Ensign retired.
“Our numbers indicate she’s up by one or two,” Reid said. “That’s a close number, but we have races all over the country that are about the same.”
If one or two points are the Democrats’ latest internal estimate on the Berkley race, that’s slightly worse than what they were predicting earlier this month. In mid-October, Democrat pollster Mark Mellman was forecasting Berkley winning with a three-point lead.
The most recent independent polls, however, have put Heller ahead by one or two points.
But all of that is within the margin of error, and the closeness of it all is why Democrats have been stressing the importance of voting early.
“Turnout is good, and we expect by Election Day to have about 70 to 75 percent of the vote already in,” Reid said.
There are still two days to go for early voting — and three days’ totals to be tallied — but, so far, Democrats are leading Republicans in turnout in Clark County and across Nevada.
At last count, 533,064 people had voted statewide, a number equal to about 42 percent of the electorate. Of those, registered Democrats numbered 235,514, while registered Republicans numbered 200,678. Other registrants, including independents, numbered 96,872.
Democrats went into this election with a 90,000-registration advantage. But Republicans have been steadily closing the turnout gap with Democrats, as measured by percentage of the electorate coming to the polls.
To meet Reid’s prediction of 70 percent of the vote to be in by Election Day, more than 350,000 Nevadans will have to vote between now and the close of early voting Friday.
Outside of Nevada, Reid said, he wasn’t worried that the devastation of Hurricane Sandy would affect voter turnout. But he predicted it would have a different kind of effect on the election.
“To think there is somebody who wants to be president of the United States who wants to do away with FEMA? That tells you how out of touch Mitt Romney is,” Reid said. “The president has handled the crisis so well that he has people like partisan Chris Christie who can’t say enough good about the president and the way that he’s handled this devastation in New Jersey.
“There is no momentum of Romney,” Reid said. “In fact, if anything, it’s switched.”