Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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Harry Reid, Sharron Angle on opposite sides of every issue

Sen. Harry Reid

Sen. Harry Reid

Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle

The two major candidates for U.S. Senate in Nevada have sharply different views on how the federal government should help the state withstand an economic blow more severe than nearly anywhere else in the country.

In a 10-issue questionnaire from the Las Vegas Sun, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican rival, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, took opposite stances on nearly every topic.

Reid, who as majority leader has shepherded major pieces of legislation through the Senate, thinks the federal government plays a crucial role in providing unemployment benefits, help for underwater home-owners, and spending on energy and infrastructure projects to create jobs.

Angle, on the other hand, thinks federal spending creates a difficult environment for businesses and workers. Instead, the government should cut taxes, eliminate regulations and basically get out of the way for the private sector to recover on its own.

Both strategies are fraught with challenges before an electorate suffering from 14 percent unemployment, record foreclosure rates and little economic recovery in sight, political consultants said.

Reid is the quintessential incumbent at a time voters are virulently anti-incumbent and generally unhappy with government. He’s faced with owning a legislative agenda that fuels much of the spending and deficits that have angered voters.

“He’s leader,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report. “As leader you have an enormous hand in crafting the establishment’s agenda. You can’t disown your own agenda.”

Reid’s campaign argues his leadership position is crucial to helping the state survive immense economic hardship and constantly points to his specific work toward that aim.

“It’s a very, very anxious electorate,” Democratic consultant and Reid adviser Billy Vassiliadis said. “They are frustrated — frustrated with everything and everybody. But I honestly believe, when all is said and done, they’ll appreciate the fact he’s doing everything he can. He hasn’t checked out. He hasn’t washed his hands of it.”

Republican consultant Ryan Erwin, however, said that’s an impossible message to win with in this climate.

“There’s no chance that (Reid’s message) can be successful,” Erwin said. “That’s why the Democrats are working so hard to force Sharron Angle to talk about issues other than the economy. If the electorate makes a decision based on the economy, there is no scenario under which he can win.”

So far, that’s exactly what Democrats have done. Reid’s campaign has begun systematically rolling out Angle’s more incendiary positions — such as “phasing out” Social Security and allowing no exception for rape or incest in abortion cases — and trying to frame them as too extreme for the average voter.

But when it comes to the economy, Angle didn’t provide much detail in her responses to the Sun’s questions. On the deficit and debt, for example, she blamed the Democratic majority for profligate spending and summed up: “It has to stop.”

To improve the economy, Angle suggests cutting taxes and spending.

But by stressing her laissez-faire philosophy in the face of harsh economic conditions, Angle runs the risk of leaving the impression she isn’t interested in providing sorely needed aid.

“To 14 percent of Nevadans and their families, they have an intellectual concern about the (federal) deficit, but the real problem of the day is how to feed themselves and their families, pay their mortgages and take care of their bills,” Vassiliadis said.

Erwin, though, said Angle’s message that the private sector creates lasting jobs, not the government, is more persuasive.

And, at the moment anyway, the economic indicators in the state fail to support Reid’s argument.

Beyond the economy, the candidates took opposing views on health care, Social Security and energy policy.

Angle wants to “repeal and replace Obamacare,” which Reid played a major role in passing. She wants to privatize Social Security, while Reid wants to explore options to keep it solvent.

Angle thinks the nation’s coal and natural gas resources must be fully developed, while Reid is focused on renewable resources such as wind, solar and geothermal — resources that can be found in abundance in Nevada.

Reid stressed that his leadership position will keep nuclear waste out of Yucca Mountain — the one thing he didn’t want to spend federal dollars on.

Angle offered a curious answer to the Yucca Mountain question, saying she opposes storing nuclear waste at the site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. She said last week she thinks the state should stop fighting that project.

But she offered her support of nuclear energy, saying plants should be built if it can be done safely and with a “plan for recycling spent fuel.” She did not indicate whether those plants should be built in Nevada.

Her campaign did not return phone calls seeking clarification.

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