The Best Campaign Of 2010
Chris Cillizza says it was Harry Reid’s re-election campaign:
Reid began the cycle with one foot in the political grave. He had the worst possible situation for a politician seeking reelection: he was both universally known and not at all well liked by Nevada voters.
Early attempts to change that dynamic by Reid weren’t encouraging. Ads he ran touting his work to save jobs at City Center in downtown Las Vegas hurt more than they helped as Reid’s standing in polls eroded even further.
If the positive phase of the Reid campaign wasn’t particularly good, the negative end of it was a master stroke.
All successful politicians are a little — or maybe more than a little — lucky. And, Reid got lucky when former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle won the Republican nomination to face him back in June.
(Reid’s campaign does deserve some credit for Angle’s primary win as they spent months hammering former state Republican party chairman Sue Lowden — the presumed frontrunner for the GOP nod — over her now-infamous comment that healthcare would benefit from a bartering system.)
From the moment Angle officially won the Republican nomination, the Reid team began a systematic negative campaign against her that will go down in history as one of the best ever. Angle was constantly on defense in the fall — trying to beat back Reid-generated stories about her comments on Social Security, Medicare and just about everything else.
The strategy reflected the simple reality of Reid’s political predicament: his only chance to win the race was to turn it into a “devil you know versus the one you don’t” choice for voters.
Reid was simply not going to get more popular in the course of the campaign. That’s a hard pill for any politician to swallow — people genuinely don’t like me but I can win if they like my opponent less — and, to the Nevada Senator’s credit, he did so without complaint.
The end result was something almost no political observer — the Fix included — thought could happen: Reid didn’t just win but took a majority of the vote.
I really don’t think there’s any question that Cillizza is right here. A year ago, people were already writing Harry Reid’s epitaph and he came back and beat his opponent by a larger majority than any of the pre-election polling was showing him with. However, while Reid’s effective campaign deserves most of the credit here, I think Reid should consider sending a thank you card to Sharron Angle, because without her mis-steps, verbal miscues, bizarre campaign strategy, and even more bizarre relationship with the media, I don’t think he could’ve done it.
Update: Cillizza lists a number of runners-up, but it occurs to me that he left one off the list. As I noted earlier today, it now seems all but official that Lisa Murkowski will become the the first person to be elected to the Senate by a write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond did it 1954. That fact alone would seem to merit her inclusion in the list.