Majority Leader Harry Reid re-elected in Nevada - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Majority Leader Harry Reid re-elected in Nevada

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. talks to campaign workers at his campaign headquarters in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. talks to campaign workers at his campaign headquarters in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survived a ferocious challenge from tea party star Sharron Angle on Tuesday to win a fifth term, giving the White House reason to celebrate on a night of sweeping Democratic losses in Congress.

It was not easy. At midyear, Reid appeared headed for defeat as Nevada suffered with the nation's worst unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. But he told voters that no one could match his clout on Capitol Hill, and warned that Angle would usher in an era in which Social Security and Medicare would be on the chopping block.

Reid promised to return the state to prosperity, and he depicted Angle as a fringe conservative whose policies would hurt Nevada families.

An Angle win would have made her Nevada's first woman senator and earned Reid the indignity of becoming the first Senate majority leader to lose re-election since Arizona's Ernest W. McFarland in 1952.

Reid's win was a surprise in a race where a succession of polls showed a dead heat and he acknowledged he was in trouble. But Reid was winning Tuesday by a 6-point margin in Republican-leaning Washoe County, Angle's home turf.

The race played out against a turbulent national political year. It was the tea party against the Beltway, insider versus outsider, the old hand versus the new face.

It pitted the dour, soft-spoken Reid, never widely popular at home, against the unpolished, gaffe-prone Angle, whose sometimes unconventional ideas included using a drug-rehabilitation program for inmates devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. She prided herself on breaking from convention, even distancing herself from the GOP that eventually embraced her.

Reid's platform was power. The 71-year-old one-time boxer touted his ability to bring federal money to his home state - no one could do more, he argued - and played up his role salvaging the Las Vegas Strip's massive CityCenter development, in which he pressured bankers to keep money flowing, and his hand in killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump. He had the backing of the powerful casino industry, and the union members who work in them.

But Angle saw Reid as part of the problem - a Democratic-led Congress broadening government's reach into places it shouldn't go, while accelerating spending and debt. She called Reid "the poster child of what's gone wrong in America."

The 61-year-old grandmother became an improbable Republican Cinderella story. Earlier this year, her campaign was broke and she barely registered in polling in a crowded GOP primary field. But a flood of outside money from the Tea Party Express and other groups helped her pull off a come-from-behind victory over moderate Sue Lowden, and a tea party champion was born. "I am the tea party," she says.

She tested the limits of anti-Washington sentiment in a year when many voters were eager for change.

Even in a year of resurgent Republicans, her deeply conservative ideas stood out: She has said Social Security and Medicare are "broken and bankrupt" and should be privatized, proposed slashing federal spending and breaking up the Education Department. She opposes abortion in all cases, and accused Reid and Democrats in Washington of trying to "make government our God" by expanding entitlement programs.

"A tsunami of conservatism is coming in waves across our country," she said earlier this year.

The majority leader struggled for months to hold voters' confidence in a state battered by the economy. On his watch, tourism dropped, jobs vanished and homes and condos stood unsold around the state. The face of Washington authority, Reid sidled close to President Barack Obama, even as the Democratic president's popularity slipped.

At one point, polls showed Reid losing to any of several potential Republican candidates. He defended bailouts and stimulus spending, while unemployment and foreclosures climbed.

The race was a clash of personalities as well as ideas.

Angle, whose father was a potato farmer, could be folksy at times, and also brash. She told Reid to "Man up" in their only televised debate, in which Reid appeared listless and uncomfortable. Reid, a miner's son who grew up on the fringes of poverty, is famously awkward in public and, like Angle, is known to stumble over his words, sometimes embarrassingly so.

Obama visited three times to campaign for his friend, and in a final radio interview Tuesday on KVEG in Las Vegas made his final pitch, "I know things are still tough out there," the president said.

Spending in the race, from the candidates and outside groups, will exceed $50 million, mostly for a torrent of negative TV ads that ran nearly nonstop in the campaign's closing days. Reid's first negative ad came just days after Angle's June primary win, depicting her as a heartless extremist.

Reid survived close races before - in 1998, he was re-elected by 428 votes.

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