A lot is at stake in today's midterm elections—the economy, tax policy, war. Here in Nevada, the state's most powerful representative in history, Sen. Harry Reid, is going down to the wire with tea party upstart Sharron Angle. Their political philosophies couldn't be more different, and the stakes couldn't be higher.
For fans of the horse race, tonight is also the Super Bowl of politics on TV. Wolf! Maddow! Hannity! Even the major networks are doubling down on this off election year, with wall-to-wall coverage planned all night. It's a political-news junkie's dream—settle in with a bag of chips and watch the returns roll in. The Weekly's John P. McDonnall will be live-blogging from the time polls close, at 7 p.m.
The cable networks are winding down their coverage, so we'll have to "leave it there," as their anchors might say. First, some loose ends: The race between incumbent Dina Titus and Joe Heck in Nevada's 3rd Congressional District is still too close to call. Heck leads by less than a point with 56 percent of the precincts reporting. Heck's edge has been inching up, however, and it looks like the physician will win. As I predicted at the beginning of the night, Berkley and Heller easily won re-election to Nevada's other Congressional seats.
My other predictions appear to be holding up, too, more or less. I thought the Republican wave would produce big gains for the party in the House–more seats than predicted by any pundits in WaPost writer Chris Cillizza's Beltway challenge. The GOP would reach 240, I thought, and Politico now has the party occupying 238 seats. I'll take that. In the Senate, the Democrats beat my prediction, holding on to 53 seats (I said they'd reach 52, counting the two independents). The handful of other races went as I expected, but Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell outperformed, grabbing 40 percent of the vote in her loss to Chris Coons (I thought she'd get no more than a third of the vote).
Her voice creaking, Sharron Angle finally thanked her supporters and gave props to the tea party movement: "You've done an incredible job, we the people, and I'm so proud of you." Conspicuously absent from her speech was any mention of Harry Reid.
So far from the Angle camp … crickets. If Harry Reid is waiting for a gracious phone call from his bete noire, he might be waiting awhile. Earlier tonight, one of the anchors at the local Fox affiliate said Angle had never given a concession speech in her career, one that includes an extremely contentious loss to former state Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio. Personally, I'd love to see Angle congratulate Reid in a speech and wish him well on behalf of Nevadans. I, too, might be waiting awhile.
Just when we in the Nevada media thought Reid had tired of all the boxing metaphors, he rolls out a few more: "I have been in some tough fights in my lifetime. They've been in the street, they've been in the boxing ring and they've been in the U.S. Senate. But I have to admit this has been the toughest. But it's nothing compared to the fights Nevadans are facing all over Nevada right now. This race has been called, but the fight is far from over. The bell that just rang isn't the end of the fight; it's the start of the next round .. I know what it's like to take a punch; I've taken a few. But more importantly I know how to get back on my feet. … My career and this campaign have been driven by a simple belief: If a poor kid from Searchlight can make it, anybody can make it."
Reid's opening salvo in acceptance speech: "Today, Nevadans chose hope over fear."
Supporters of Prop 19 in California, it turns out, weren't that motivated. The ballot initiative that would have legalized possession of a dime-bag for every Phish fan and Haight-Ashbury hanger-outer in the state went down in a cloud of smoke–along with Nevadans' dreams of a domestic Amsterdam right across the border. California, this was the least you could do after sending us so many of your crappy drivers.
Speaking of headlines, here's a roundup of the bold type on some of the top news sites:
The New York Times: "Republicans Will Take Control of the House"
The Wall Street Journal: "GOP Wins House; Democrats Hang Tough in Senate"
The Washington Post: "Republicans capture control of House"
MSNBC.com: "'PUTTING WASHINGTON ON NOTICE'"
CNN.com: "GOP will take the House, CNN projects; Dems hold Senate"
The National Journal: "GOP Takes House: 'Work To Do,' Says Boehner"
Politico: "GOP seizes control of House"
The Drudge Report: "REID 220,675, ANGLE 192,856"
The Huffington Post: "REPUBLICANS TO OVERTAKE HOUSE"
The headline on the Review-Journal's top election story online is relatively small and strangely qualified: "News organizations call race for Reid." What gives? Are they holding out hope for a reversal? Do they have independent data indicating a different result?
Meanwhile, the headline on the Sun's site ("Reid knocks off Angle") seems to suggest Angle was in a position of power from which to be knocked. She wasn't.
Looking at the long faces on Fox News, I can only think: Where's the Brady Bunch split screen when you need it. I want more. I'd like to see the abject despair all at once. Says Chris Wallace: "I'm surprised. They only had one face-to-face debate, and on the Republican side the question for Harry Reid was his record. For Sharron Angle the question was, Was she up to being a senator? And everybody thought she did very well in that debate."
REID WINS! So says none other than Fox News. Karl Rove's instant analysis is that the GOP didn't lose because it put up a far-right tea partier: "Angle gave it her all. When she was outspent, when she was outgunned and when she was brutally attacked by Harry Reid, she stood her ground, and has nothing to hang her head about tonight." The folks over at Reid headquarters might respectfully disagree.
Here's a quick update to catch everyone up. The Democrats will retain the majority in the U.S. Senate, thanks to wins by Barbara Boxer of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Chuck Schumer of New York, along with others. Senate Republicans will welcome new members Mark Kirk of Illinois and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Jerry Brown has won the governor's race in California, and Jan Brewer will stay on for another term in Arizona.
In Nevada, Secretary of State Ross Miller has been declared the winner in his race with a double-digit lead and a third of the precincts reporting.
Brian Sandoval, whom I like to think of as a less equivocal and equally handsome Mitt Romney, will be Nevada's next governor. Ralston just tweeted: "Sandoval up 10. Game over."
On TV, Ralston seems to be coming around to the view that Reid will win, particularly "if the results continue to go in this direction."
It's now official: Republicans have won the House majority. All along the question has not been "if," but by how many. Stay tuned.
Meet new Speaker of the House John Boehner: "Frankly, this is not a time for celebration. Not when one out of 10 of our fellow citizens are out of work and not when our Congress is held with such low esteem. This is the time to roll up our sleeves."
Words I think even the folks over at The Nation could get behind.
Good news for Harry Reid: The majority leader needed to win the early vote in Clark County by a large margin, and he has. The recently released data show Reid with an 11 percentage point win over Angle among those voters. Remember this rule of thumb, though: The more desert sand you see around you in Nevada, the more conservative the voter. So it's far from over. Ralston says Reid is "about where he wants to be" at this point.
Great question, dumb answer. At Brian Sandoval's election headquarters, the KSNV reporter asks a guy with strangely parted hair (ID'd as a "supporter") how Sandoval can hope to bridge the state's estimated $3 billion budget deficit while promising not to raise taxes. Basically: Why's your guy talkin' out the side of his neck? Bad haircut responds: "Nevada is one of the most taxed states in the country, so raising taxes is not gonna help us. The tried and true method is to lower taxes on [sic] businesses."
Say what? We have no personal income tax, no corporate income tax and a sales tax that's probably midrange. Plus, the gaming industry pays for the vast majority of our lean, mean state government. To say we're among the most taxed is just plain wrong. A certain Daniel Patrick Moynihan quote comes to mind ...
The coverage over at NBC's KSNV is looking a lot like what you'd see on the big cable news networks. And I don't mean that as a compliment. The anchors keep killing time, talking over endless footage of campaign workers wheeling ballots around in Tupperware bins. Several times they've told the audience that more than 60 percent of voters had pulled levers before today. It's a great and telling statistic, but it's not THAT great. The panel, however, includes bulldog interviewer Jon Ralston, so I'm in.
The A.P. is calling the South Carolina gubernatorial race for Nikki Haley–yet more proof that accusing a female candidate of being a slut gets you nowhere. Apparently, no one saw The Contender starring Joan Allen.
On the other hand, it appears that questioning a male politician's manhood ("Man up, Harry Reid") is kosher. Where's the outrage?
The Onion has an interactive map with "key ballot initiatives" in states across the nation. Nevada makes the cut with: "Prop 6: Would legalize and tax the sale of bags of oregano to dumb 13-year-olds."
Also, "Kansas: Prop 4: Closes so-called 'book-fair loophole' in state's mandatory five-day waiting period to purchase literature."
Appropriately, Angle's election party is being held at the Venetian, run by GOP sugar daddy and secret bridge troll Sheldon Adelson. An Angle spokeswoman says the tea party candidate will fly in later tonight from Reno to pop bottles in Vegas. Unfortunately for her young campaign workers, the bottles will likely contain tea–or at least, no alcohol.
Now for the important stuff: My picks for the night. Before you accuse me of cheating because some races have been decided, I should disclose that I made these earlier in the week, prompted by Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza's Beltway challenge.
* House composition: 240 Republicans, 195 Democrats
* Senate composition: 50 Democrats, 48 Republicans, 2 independents
* Nevada Senate race: Harry Reid 47.5 percent, Sharron Angle 46.0 percent
* Colorado Senate race: Ken Buck 52 percent, Michael Bennet 48 percent
* California governor: Jerry Brown 52 percent, Meg Whitman 47 percent
* Maryland governor: Martin O'Malley 54 percent, Bob Ehrlich 46 percent
* What percentage of the vote will Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell receive? 34 percent
Other picks, specific to Nevada: Sandoval big in the gubernatorial race; Titus out and Shelley Berkley and Dean Heller safe in the House.
First groan-worthy gambling reference on NBC: "In Nevada ... we'll be watching one of the biggest nail-biters of the night. John Yang is there checking out the wagering in Las Vegas." (Yang chuckles.) So far so good, though, on the correct pronunciation of Nuh-VAD-uh.
The laptop has been charged up and the Folgers is brewing. Already, it's shaping up to be a long night. Early exit polls showed Harry Reid with a slight edge over Sharron Angle, but the tea party darling has been known to close strong. In the primary, Angle trailed Sue Lowden by a few points just before Election Night, but buried Lowden like a Chilean miner once all votes were counted.
More than a few political observers think Reid will eke out a narrow victory for the umpteenth time in his career. Earlier today, GOP pollster Frank Luntz joined the Sun's venerable pundit Jon Ralston by calling the race for Reid. On Twitter, however, Ralston didn't do any favors for Luntz's credibility: "Didn't he call it 4 Kerry in '04?" Ralston wrote.