Not long ago Harry Reid looked like he might go the way of Chris Dodd. And he still has a hell of a battle on his hands for reelection. But for an interlocking series of reasons, things seem at least a little brighter than they did only a couple months ago. (The latest poll shows him neck and neck with his probable opponents compared to the ten to fifteen point deficits he faced only a couple months ago.) And one of the biggest reasons has been a staggering series of unforced errors by his would-be competitors.
You know about former frontrunner Sue Lowden’s spastastic self-immolation in ChickenGate, a series of truly unforced errors that now make her a deeply damaged general election candidate. But it doesn’t stop there. Whatever Rand Paul’s scruples about the Civil Rights Act and whatever else anyone else might think in their heart of hearts, I think we can all agree that for the moment Republicans have a really clear and unified message on the CRA and that’s they like it Big Time. So you would have thought that when she was asked about it on Face to Face, the interview show of Jon Ralston, the dean of Nevada political reporters, she wouldn’t have much trouble hitting it out of the park.
But you’d be wrong.
When Ralston asked Lowden her views on the CRA she first dodged the question and then on follow up refused to answer it outright. Why? Good question. Apparently after the interview her staff convinced her that this was almost as needless a self-inflicted wound as the chicken thing and her campaign sent out a release protesting Lowden’s unequivocal attachment and support for the law. It got Lowden yet another 24 hours of bad press. But whether or not it adds any lasting damage it shows one thing clearly: that under pressure and on camera, Lowden makes more or less constant unforced errors, which would be a big on-going advantage for Reid in the general if she’s the nominee.
But that’s not all of it. Since Lowden’s implosion, Club for Growth has come out for Sharron Angle and they’re now running attack ads against Lowden. And Lowden in turn is attacking Angle for alleged ties to Scientology.
That may play well in the GOP primary. But if Angle holds on and gets the nomination, Reid will certainly hit her on her open advocacy of scrapping Social Security — a position so toxic in Nevada, even in 2010, that even Lowden is attacking her for it. On top of this add on that in the aftermath of the Lowden collapse, part of the state’s Tea Party support is now going to yet another candidate, John Chachas. And if that’s not enough you’ve still got Danny Tarkanian, the other major candidate in the race who played a decent part in Lowden’s drop in the polls by hammering her for the Chicken nonsense.
Put it all together, and Reid faces either Lowden, who’s now deeply damaged, or Angle, who would go into the general with far-right positions on things like Social Security which may put her too far to the right even in 2010. And they’ll clearly all keep clobbering each other for the next week and a half before the primary on June 8th.
None of this guarantees Reid reelection. Far from it. His popularity levels back in Nevada are still hovering just over lethal territory for an incumbent. But if his luck in opponents continues this way, he has a real chance.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.