Byron York writes:
LAS VEGAS — At polling places across Nevada Tuesday, researchers conducting exit polls asked voters one fundamental question about Harry Reid: Do you approve or disapprove of the way he has handled his job as senator? The results were terrible for the Senate Majority Leader. Fifty-five percent of voters disapproved of the job he has done, while 44 percent approved. Such numbers might seem a sure indicator of defeat, and yet by Tuesday night, Reid was leading his supporters in a victory celebration.
The exit pollsters also asked whether Reid, running for a fifth term in the Senate, has been in Washington too long. Fifty-five percent of voters said yes, while 41 percent said no. And still Reid won.
It’s long been common knowledge here that many, many Nevadans don’t like their senior senator. What Tuesday’s exit polls showed was that their feelings go well beyond simple dislike. And yet, if the exit polls are correct, a significant number of people voted to re-elect a man they think isn’t doing a good job and who has stayed too long in the Senate. In the end, Reid won 50.2 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Sharron Angle’s 44.6 percent.
It would be hard to find a more telling measure of Angle’s deficiencies as a candidate or the devastating effectiveness of Reid’s scorched-earth negative campaign against her. Funded by millions of dollars from public-sector unions, Reid relentlessly attacked Angle from the moment she won the GOP nomination. Many of the earliest attacks went unanswered, forming impressions of Angle so negative that they outweighed the voters’ negative opinion of Reid.
And then there was Reid’s organizational strength. Both Reid and Angle held their election-night parties in Las Vegas casinos, Reid in the new Aria complex and Angle at the Venetian. That’s nothing out of the ordinary in Nevada, but the difference between them was that Reid was entirely at home, with the enormous financial power and organizing muscle of the gambling industry and its union allies in his corner, while Angle was relying on votes from people who live far from Las Vegas. Republicans across the country who were hoping for a miracle in this race discovered that raw power wins the day.