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Analyst calls Harry Reid ‘underdog’ as GOP battle escalates


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Sen. Harry Reid delivers a speech about health insurance reform and the health care bill that’s before Congress on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2009, at UNLV.

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 | 3:50 p.m.

Sun Coverage

WASHINGTON -- An influential analyst is saying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the "underdog" in his re-election fight.

Stu Rothenberg has shifted the race slightly toward takeover by a Republican candidate in November.

Yet the real action is increasingly coming in June with the escalating war between the top Republican candidates hoping for the chance to emerge from the primary for the chance to unseat Reid.

Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian criticized the dismal shape of the Nevada state Republican Party under fellow Republican candidate Sue Lowden’s tenure – an issue he said is sure to be part of the primary battle.

“The party has never been in worse shape,” said Tarkanian, the former UNLV basketball star-turned-businessman said on the “Bill Manders Show” on KOH-AM 780 Monday in Reno.

Tarkanian said the party suffers from having gone without either office space or an executive director for the past year. He said the party is in debt and the campaign will suffer.

“It’s going to be very difficult for the Republican Party to come together,” Tarkanian acknowledged. “The one great thing is that we have the one person who can bring the Republican Party together, and that is Harry Reid. And I am hoping that people will put aside some of the differences that are happening and come together to beat Harry Reid.”

Lowden’s campaign shot back that the party’s troubles were not limited to Nevada, but part of a national Republican Party meltdown.

“Danny's memory is as short as his list of election victories,” said Lowden campaign consultant Robert Uithoven.

“I think most Republicans know that the damage done the last few cycles to our party came from the top down, not bottom up,” he said.

Lowden's camp said Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 “primarily because Republicans in Washington stopped acting like Republicans. They spent too much, some had scandals and some went to jail.”

True point, but also a sober reminder of recent party history as Republicans they seek to build momentum heading into the fall election.

Meanwhile Reid, now the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election, took a hit when Rothenberg shifted the race toward the possibility of a Republican takeover. The political handicapper points to last weekend’s polling which showed Reid’s approval rating at 33 percent as he loses in potential match-ups to Tarkanian, Lowden or conservative former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle.

“It will be extremely difficult for him to pull out a win,” Rothenberg wrote.

“Given Reid’s current standing with voters, he should be viewed as a slight underdog for re-election,” Rothenberg wrote, “which is why we are moving this race from Toss-up to Lean Takeover for the GOP.”

Rothenberg points to past races where the incumbent could not recover from low numbers, including those of Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in 2006, Republican Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire in 2008 and more recently Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in New Jersey.

Reid’s campaign has maintained its own internal polling shows Reid faring better.

Reid’s campaign has maintained its own internal polling shows Reid faring better, “beating all of his potential opponents.”

“The only opinions that matter in this election are those of Nevadans, not Washington pundits who aren’t here on the ground,” said Reid campaign manager Brandon Hall.

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