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Nevada Primary: The final sprint

Good afternoon race fans! Amy Gardner here, one of the luckies helping fill in for Dave Weigel while he takes a richly deserved beach break. As he mentioned, I'm in Nevada today and tomorrow to check in on the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Just a quick explainer on my role here: I'm a reporter, not a full-time blogger and certainly not an opinion-maker. I'll do my best to provide you with some quick, off-the-trail reports from my experiences out here. There won't be much attitude, but hopefully you'll find an interesting tidbit or two. And please come back and read more under my byline in the regular newspaper. Thanks for sticking with us!

So. Back to Nevada. The top three contenders in the race to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are: former state senator (and formerly clear front runner) Sue Lowden, former state assemblywoman and surging “tea party” favorite Sharron Angle, and real estate entrepreneur Danny Tarkanian. They're all racing around the state this week, spending most of their time at meet-and-greets in southern Nevada but with some targeted tours through rural parts as well because turnout is hard to predict.

Turnout has been sluggish at best for early voting, which began May 22 and ends Friday. The Nevada secretary of state's office is reporting that a mere 7.4 percent of registered voters has participated so far in early voting, with an additional 5 percent estimated to have sent in absentee ballots.

The narrative last month was that Sue Lowden was the woman to beat, but that changed after she harked back, in a television appearance, to the days when consumers paid their medical bills by bartering such items as chickens. Since then, Lowden's numbers have fallen steadily while those of Angle have gained.

Tarkanian's numbers haven't moved much, giving insiders reason to believe this is not his time. Erick Erickson, famed blogger over at, has even pulled back from his endorsement of Tarkanian (who is the son of famed UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian) by suggesting last week that it would be okay if Republicans voted for either Tarkanian or Angle.

So the real battle in all published polls is between Angle and Lowden. Angle's got the support of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth as well as the Tea Party Express. (She may also have the support of Reid; most observers believe Reid would rather face Angle, in order to portray her as out of step with mainstream voters). But can Angle keep surging through Tuesday? Let's not forget that Angle had a few interesting moments of her own, including an effort during her years in the state legislature to push a prison rehabilitation program promoted by the Church of Scientology that involved massage and sauna as part of treatment. (Angle is not a Scientologist).

Did Angle peak too soon? Which is more damaging: chickens or saunas?

Stay tuned. I'm off now to an appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama with Reid at Red Rock Canyon, just outside Las Vegas. The two began the day in Reno, where Obama headlined the Women's Summit 2010. At Red Rock, they'll promote "Let's Move Outside!", an initiative of the Department of Interior designed to encourage more outdoor activity among children. Reid invited her to both events.

The trip represents a rare political deployment for the first lady, who is sure to provide a media boost for Reid as he positions for what is expected to be a difficult reelection bid this year. Reid will face the winner of a highly competitive June 8 Republican primary. He has already spent $8.6 million this election cycle, but his approval ratings remain below 50 percent in most public polls. As of the end of March, Reid had another $9 million on hand, according for the Federal Election Commission.

By Amy Gardner  |  June 1, 2010; 5:40 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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