The Conventional Wisdom was that the Tea Party–backed Sharron Angle was a disaster for the GOP. Harry Reid would crush her, the theory went. She was too “wacky” for the voters. The New York Times confesses that this turned out to be nonsense:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada first thought he could scrape his way to re-election by invoking his power as majority leader and reminding voters what that means for his home state. When that didn’t seem to work, he thought he could pull out this election with a scorched-earth campaign aimed at his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate with a rich history of unorthodox statements and politically unpopular positions. …

On the eve of the only debate of this contest, and as early voting begins on Saturday — a two-week period in which 50 percent of Nevadans are expected to cast ballots — Mr. Reid finds himself trapped in the race he has, in many ways, always feared. Ms. Angle, an opponent his campaign had viewed as the most flawed on the Republican bench, has not only held her own, but has become a national symbol of the Tea Party attempt to upend politics in Washington.

Angle is out-fundraising the Senate majority leader (has this ever happened?) and is running dead even with Reid. So it comes down to this:

For all the money gushing through the state, aides to both candidates described the central question of the race in similar terms: whether the intensity of Ms. Angle’s supporters, and their dislike of Mr. Reid — a statement from Ms. Angle’s campaign boasting of the fund-raising take talked about the “the hatred of Harry Reid” — would be enough to overcome the incumbent’s get-out-the-vote operation.

In a year in which Republicans are pumped up and Democrats’ enthusiasm is lagging, that would seem to give Angle the edge. And frankly, with Christine O’Donnell in the news, Angle seems awfully mainstream.

If the Senate majority leader hasn’t closed the sale and squashed his pesky challenger by now, it may be that the voters have simply had enough:

“My sense all along is at the end of the day this is a referendum on Reid,” [the director of Mason-Dixon polling] said. “No matter how kooky they try to portray Angle, I think at the end of the day, people, if they have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils, they’ll vote against Harry Reid.”

Come to think of it, the same could be said of all Democrats on the ballot, and the 2010 midterms as a whole.

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