Harry Reid, Sharron Angle Face off in Contentious Nevada Senate Debate

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle speaks during a televised Nevada Senate debate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010, in Las Vegas. ) AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle speaks during a televised Nevada Senate debate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010, in Las Vegas.
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

In Thursday night's hotly anticipated Nevada Senate debate, incumbent Sen. Harry Reid and his opponent Sharron Angle faced off for the first and last time in front of the cameras. They opposed each other on nearly every issue and traded personal barbs about the other's ethical credibility, "extreme" views, and - in one case - a candidate's masculinity.

"Man up, Harry Reid!" cried Angle in one of many impassioned efforts to distance herself from the man she has called a "career politician."

In an hour-long forum, hosted by the Nevada Broadcasters Association and moderated by Mitch Fox,  candidates sparred over issues including illegal immigration, health care reform, abortion and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Both Reid and Angle appeared at times uncomfortable and ill-prepared against the venue's brightly-lit green backdrop. 

Angle was quick to attack the longtime Democratic Senator, accusing him of political careerism and emphasizing the differences represented by the two candidates.

"Tonight you will see the difference between Harry Reid and big government and Sharron Angle and limited, constitutional government," Angle stated in her opening remarks, adding, "I'm not a career politician... I was a teacher for 25 years... I live in a middle class neighborhood in Reno. Senator Reid lives in the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C."

Health care was a primary point of discussion throughout the debate and Reid accused Angle - who conceded she does not believe there are any medical conditions for which there should be any government-mandated health coverage - of holding "very extreme" views.

"My opponent doesn't like any insurance companies to have to do anything," Reid said, emphasizing the candidate's opposition to funding for mammograms and colonoscopies.

"America is a country of choices, not forcing people to buy things that they don't need," Angle said of so-called "Obamacare," invoking a theme she cited frequently throughout the night. "The solution is simple: We need to get the government out."

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"Insurance companies ... don't do things out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it out of a profit motive and they have almost destroyed our economy," Reid fired back.

The candidates also differed on immigration, with Reid calling for "comprehensive reform" and Angle condemning his opposition to Arizona's controversial immigration legislation that was passed earlier this year.

"What we have here is an illegal alien problem and the solution is simple: secure the borders, enforce the laws," Angle said. "We should be supporting Arizona."

On economic issues, Angle reiterated her belief that job creation does not fall under the job description of a U.S. Senator: "Harry Reid: It's not your job to create jobs," she argued. "It's your job to create policies that create the confidence for the private sector to create those jobs."   

Angle also pushed for extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, arguing that if they were not made permanent "we will experience the largest tax increase in the history of America."

"I personally am not in favor of giving billionaires tax cuts," Reid responded, before guaranteeing that he would not support an increase in taxes for middle class Americans.

Nevada currently suffers from the nation's highest unemployment rate, 14.4 percent, up nearly five percent from the national number. Thirteen-thousand Nevada homeowners received foreclosure notices in August alone, according tothe Boston Globe.

Polls show the candidates locked in a dead heat: A recent study by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Nevada's 8NewsNow show Angle two points ahead of Reid, with 47 percent to his 45. Alternately, a Suffolk University poll released Wednesday shows Reid leading by three points, at 46 percent to 43 percent.

The two candidates have traded negligible leads in recent weeks, most of which fall within the respective polls' margins of sampling error. CBS currently rates the race a toss up.


Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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