Senate Race: Undecided Voters Left Out?
Sarah Palin took the stage at Monday's Tea Party Express rally and drummed up support from Sharron Angle's base. Palin: "When we retire Reid and we send Sharron to Washington DC we know that she will listen " By far the more powerful theme of the rally was not to build up Angle, but to tear Reid down. When I asked Sarah Palin why undecided voters should consider Angle it was the first thing she went to. Palin: "Look what has happened to Nevada's economy with National policies led by Harry Reid that has created this unemployment that is record here: 14.4%!" Aside from that, a centrist voter might not have found a lot to latch on to at the tea party rally. It was clear that this is a conservative movement with a right wing agenda. At the rally, I caught up with Republican Congressman Dean Heller, who's up for re-election. I asked him how the Republicans plan to win over centrists, who might be key with this race being statistically tied in the latest polls. Heller: "That's the group being left out right now, probably, some of these arguments, is the center." And Heller argues, maybe they should be left out. Heller: "I think this is a real good test case for America, you know. The conservative candidate is being conservative. The democratic liberal candidate is being liberal. And they're both sticking to their guns." Not so fast, says political scientist Fred Lokken. While Angle ran right and stayed right, it's a different story Reid. Rittiman: "Is Harry Reid campaigning as a liberal?"Lokken: "Not at all. Harry Reid is not a liberal in terms of his voting record. He is a moderate, maybe a little left of moderate. I think he's being held accountable for things that have gone under his watch as majority leader." Some voters have real problems with some of the policies Reid's seen through the Senate, like healthcare reform. But Lokken says it's mere rhetoric to paint Reid as campaigning on a liberal agenda. As Sarah Palin worked the crowd and signed autographs after her speech, she took a phone call from Sharron Angle. Palin: [to Angle] "You're doing awesome. Keep up the hard work Sharron and just encourage your supporters, don't let up " But the two are sharing more than phone calls Here's Angle at last week's debate Angle: "Man up, Harry Reid " And here's Palin at the rally. Palin: "Hey politicians who are in office today, you need to just man up I join Sharron Angle in calling them too to just man up." Lokken says the political strategists would like you to believe that Angle came up with that bold shot at Reid... Lokken: "When she suddenly talks about manning up Harry Reid, there's no way a 61-year-old woman would come up with that phrase, so another orchestrated phrase from the National Republican Committee. She's scripted. She cannot leave the script." So basically what you have is a republican with right-wing credentials going pedal to the medal on most of her conservative stances Will it work against Reid's more centrist approach? Well, it is indeed a test case says Fred Lokken. Lokken: "If she wins it's probably going to be seen as a brilliant strategy and will be the basis for what the republican party does in 2012." Back at the tea party rally I talked with some people in the crowd. Wearing a Sharron Angle t-shirt and holding her campaign sign, Charlene Bybee of Sparks thinks that the message about Harry Reid will be enough to win the undecided voters over Bybee: "It's the moderates and the independents that are critical to this election and if they're happy with where things are right now, and where Harry Reid is taking us, then they can vote for Harry Reid. But if you're not happy with where we are right now, then the choice is pretty clear." Ken Williams, also from Sparks, showed up without a banner or button. He likes the tea party message. He's pretty sure he's voting for Angle, but he's not 100 percent sold. Williams: "I am a bit unsure about her, but it's the lesser of two evils in my mind." Moderates who feel that way may split from both major party candidates, and while many predict that would help out Harry Reid, it's not going to be clear exactly how it plays out until election night.