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Harry Reid and Sharron Angle Leave Nevada Voters Wanting More

Harry Reid Sharron Angle
CBS

LAS VEGAS -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican opponent Sharron Angle are locked in a tight battle to represent Nevada. And they both addressed their partisan bases this weekend at dueling political conferences in Las Vegas. The residents of Las Vegas, meanwhile, are still wondering exactly what either candidate will do for them.

At the liberal Netroots Nation conference, Reid ran through a list of Democratic accomplishments from the past year, many pertaining to the economy -- such as the stimulus package, legislation to clamp down on mortgage fraud and an extension of unemployment benefits ("after another seemingly endless Repoublican charade," Reid said).

Meanwhile, down the Las Vegas strip at the conservative RightOnline conference, Angle was needling Reid for boasting about "doing more" in Congress. Angle said it's time for Reid to "stop doing more," and for Congress to employ "simple solutions" to improve the economy, such as reducing marginal tax rates.

"We need to look at what caused the problems," Angle also said, advocating for auditing the Federal Reserve, and for liquidating mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - or as she called them, "Phony Mae and Frauddie Mac."

But Nevada voters seem increasingly skeptical of Angle, who has drawn fire from Reid for such positions as calling for the elimination of the Department of Education.

However, while Reid may be "doing more" than previous Senate leaders, his constituents seem to agree with Angle that it isn't doing much good.

Reid maintains a slight lead over Angle in a recent poll, but both candidates have high negative ratings among voters.

Josh, a cab driver who didn't want to share his last name, said he finally got work about six weeks ago, after no luck in his trade as a sheet metal worker.

"People are starting to come back to Vegas, at least, but there's still tons of people out of work," he said.

Josh said he's been too preoccupied thinking about his job situation to follow politics, and he doubts others in his situation will be any more motivated to vote this year.

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Few other parts of the country have been hit as hard by the recession as Nevada. The state has the highest unemployment rate, at 14.2 percent, as well as a dismally high foreclosure rate. Empty commercial buildings and boarded up small busineses stand in stark contrast to the glitz of the Las Vegas strip.

An internal memo from the Reid campaign shows the incumbent has a "serious problem" with voters worried about the economy and that Reid "receives a great deal of the blame," the Associated Press reports.

"I see it every day, the people that I work with, my neighbors," said Michele Ficano, an insurance agent who has lived in Nevada for 21 years. "There are maybe a half a dozen homes in my neighborhood that are just vacant."

Ficano said that Reid hasn't had a strong enough presence in Nevada - he hasn't convinced voters he's working for them.

"I'm pretty liberal, but I'm just disenchanted right now," she said. "Does Congress really want to help us, or do they have their own self interests?"

Nevertheless, Ficano said she's still voting for Reid this November because, she said, Angle is an "idiot."

"I think Sharron Angle is like Sarah Palin's twin sister," she said. "I don't think she's for women's rights, you can't get an answer out of her when you ask her something. She talks to the far Christian right, but that's about it."

Democrats this year are aiming to frame the elections as a choice between Democratic policies or Bush era policies. Ficano's experience seems to suggest that could work: She says she is not only concerned about seeing Angle as her senator, but also about the prospect of having Republicans in charge who want to repeal health care reform.

Ficano said her husband's small business has dried up, leaving her as the prime breadwinner for her household. Her job as an insurance agent is especially critical, she said, because of her poor health.

"I voted for Obama because I have a serious health issue, and I really wanted to see the health care reform," Ficano said.

But she says that on that issue, she also feels Democrats have come up short. It's impossible to figure out if she will really benefit from the new legislation, Ficano said.

"Now there's all this information being disseminated, you don't know if it's accurate or not," she said.

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