Harry Reid is not closing strong.
Reid benefited from the previous two months of the campaign when most of the focus was on his opponent. Her surprise primary victory, gaffes, attacks on the GOP establishment, heck, even her hairdo, have come in for close scrutiny as the Tea Party storyline has gripped political reporters.
But in the closing days of the campaign, the focus is turning to the incumbent, and not with very favorable results.
A Democratic pollster told Power Play that Reid's performance has been "underwhelming" in the late campaign days and that party polls show that the Senate majority leader has been "maxed out" for several weeks.
Though he is quick to point out that Angle's situation is precarious and that voters could "turn on her quickly," he conceded that things are not shaping up well for Reid.
Public polls show the same thing - Reid has been stuck at about 47 percent of the vote. Angle, on the other hand, has crossed the 50 percent threshold in several recent surveys.
The momentum shift may have come at last week's debate in which Angle proved to not be the goblin that Reid's campaign ads had made her out to be and Reid proved to be a kind of gray specter with a grim visage and lawyerly answers.
Angle benefited from two sets of managed expectations this year - the over-the-top Reid ads calling her "crazy" and "nuts," and, strangely, the rise of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. Angle may not be a conventional politician but compared to the picture Reid painted and the "not a witch" from Delaware, Angle looks rather plausible.
Reid has what some political strategists refer to as an "Al Gore problem." It is widely believed that Gore would have won the 2000 campaign if he would have just stayed out of public view for the last two weeks of the campaign. But every time Gore would emerge into the spotlight, George W. Bush's numbers would improve.
For an incumbent (or in Gore's case, quasi-incumbent) who is not well-liked, visibility is the enemy. Reid's stealthy campaign has shown that his handlers know better than to let the gaffe-prone senator out in public much.
But, Reid is stuck at 47 percent and Democrats are having a devil of a time driving conservative leaning voters to vote for "none of these candidates" or fringe parties now that Angle has shown herself to be a more reasonable pick than once presumed.
That means Reid has had to start running for office instead of standing for reelection.
As Reid told the Washington Examiner's Susan Ferrechio, he hadn't been out campaigning before because he was very busy: "I've been running the country, or at least helping to run it."
Reid topped that line on Thursday night with MSNBC host Ed Schultz (who is more often scourging Reid for inadequate liberalism) when Reid explained that the reason he wasn't doing better with voters because they didn't understand what he had done for them, saying: "But for me, we'd be in a worldwide depression."
Reid takes his visibility to a new level today with a visit from President Obama. Past Obama visits have featured big money fundraisers behind closed doors. Today's event includes that, but also a rally at a Las Vegas middle school.
(Power Play will leave it to other, less charitable, political notes to point out that the other rallies for Democratic incumbents on Obama's West-Coast trip have been held at big universities).
In this week's FOX News battleground state poll, Reid's job approval was 41 percent in the state. Obama's was 40 percent. In a September FOX poll, 76 percent of voters thought that Obama's policies had either hurt the state's economy (46 percent) or made no difference (30 percent).
The trouble with the White House strategy on the midterms is that by working so hard to fire up the liberal base, the administration has been reminding independents and moderate Democrats about the things they like least about the past two years.
In his interview with Schultz, one of Reid's central claims echoed the most recent Obama talking point on the election: that it is a lack of credit taking and "advertising" their successes that has hurt Democrats with voters.
But Nevada voters know Reid well and have certainly heard lots from Obama about the Democratic agenda. They know what's happened since January 2009. They just don't like it.
Rather than touting what he did "running the country" or in preventing "worldwide depression," Reid might have been better off to keep Obama behind closed doors, stick with a low profile and hope that Angle's gaffes, like commenting on the likely ethnic origins of schoolchildren, would continue to dominate the mainstream airwaves.
It might not have gotten him over 47 percent, but it might have driven Angle there too.
Thanks to today's Power Play crew: Kimberly Schwandt, April Girouard, L.A. Holmes, Gretchen Gailey and Nikoletta Gjoni
The Day in Quotes
"People have been hurting. And I understand that. And it doesn't give them comfort or solace for me to tell them, you know, but for me, we'd be in a worldwide depression. They want to know what I have done for them."
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on MSNBC explaining that Nevadans don't fully understand the global scope of his work.
"People in Nevada know me from the street to the ring to the Senate chambers. I've never had to prove my manhood to anyone"
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on MSNBC responding belatedly to a challenge from GOP opponent Sharron Angle in a debate last week that Reid "man up" on Social Security.
"We're the big dog. But we don't like to brag."
-- Larry Scanlon, head of political operations for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to the Wall Street Journal on the union's $87.5 million in political spending, the most of any outside group this year.
"He is just baffled and bewildered about why there has not been a more coherent message talking about what the party has done, why we allowed ourselves to become human piñatas. I think he is agitated that Democrats haven't put their best foot forward in explaining to the American public what they've actually done."
-- Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, passing on the laments of his friend, former President Bill Clinton.
"If everybody that voted in 2008 shows up in 2010, we will win this election. We will win this election."
-- President Obama at a Seattle rally for Sen. Patty Murray.
"There are a few members who we approached many, many, many months ago to get their act together who did not take that advice, and we're obviously working closely to protect those who did not prepare themselves."
-- Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
"I can continue to be the annoyer in chief if the White House doesn't want to work with us. But if they do, we have a real opportunity to get some things done."
-- Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), ranking Republican on the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, promising the Wall Street Journal that he would not use his subpoena power to harass the Obama administration if the GOP takes the House.
Talking Point Alert:
"We didn't have a chance to really take victory laps around each element of what we were doing."
-- Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod in an interview with Roll Call published Thursday morning.
"We had to move so fast, we were in such emergency mode, that it was very difficult for us to spend time a lot doing victory laps and advertising exactly what we were doing because we had to move onto the next thing. I take some responsibility for that."
-- President Obama speaking at a backyard campaign event for women in Seattle Thursday afternoon.
Trail Riders - Alexi Flops; Premiums Rise; Manchin Calls; Obama Swings
Giannoulias Accuses Kirk of Treason, Reporters Not Impressed
Illinois Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias had a bad day after holding a morning press conference to accuse Republican opponent Mark Kirk of economic "treason" for holding a conference call fundraiser with Americans working in China on the day before a 2009 House vote on a Democratic bill to close an overseas tax loophole.
Giannoulias suggested that the money the Americans abroad gave Kirk, less than $6,000, swayed the congressman's vote on the bill. Reporters at the press conference pounced, pointing out that the party-line vote had been scheduled long after the conference call and that Kirk had consistently opposed similar proposals.
As Giannoulias, who held a fundraiser with trial lawyers in Canada earlier this year, battled with reporters, one of the campaign signs arranged on the wall behind him fell to the ground.
Local TV reports last night and today's papers hammer Giannoulias for the over-the-top accusations so late in the campaign.
Kirk holds a narrow lead in late polling.
Health Insurance Premiums Rising 14 Percent
It's not just Boeing workers who are getting bad news about the cost of their health benefits in the days just before the election.
The share of employee health insurance premiums for a family plan is up an average of 14 percent next year, to $3,997, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many of those letters are arriving at voters' homes this week.
Manchin Phoned it in
West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Joe Manchin opted to attend a D.C. fundraiser for his campaign on Thursday by phone.
With Republicans crowing about the "Coakleyesque" decision of Manchin to come D.C. to raise insider cash while locked in a bitter battle with Republican John Raese, the West Virginia governor opted to stay on the campaign trail and call in to the fundraiser hosted by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).
Attorney Asks to Depose Pelosi in Civil Suit Right Before Election Day
As though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) doesn't have enough going on right now...the attorney representing a female U.S. Capitol Police officer who is suing the U.S. Capitol Police Board for alleged sexual discrimination, is demanding that Pelosi give a sworn deposition on November 1, the day before the most-pivotal midterm election in 16 years. Special Agent Luanne Moran is a member of Pelosi's U.S. Capitol Police protective detail. Moran doesn't allege Pelosi did anything wrong. But she is suing the police after supervisors placed her on administrative leave following an incident in which she used foul language. -- Chad PergramColorado Gubernatorial Debate
In Denver today, Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo, the long-time Republican now running as an American Constitution Party candidate, will face off in a final debate.
Local affiliate FOX 31 is hosting what promises to be a wild event in the nation's most fascinating gubernatorial contest.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will swing into eastern Pennsylvania to headline a rally for Republican senate candidate Pat Toomey in Blue Bell, Pa.
Candidate Uses Rape Victim's Parents in Ad
Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett's latest television advertisement features the parents of a rape victim who accuse his Republican opponent of being "too extreme for Wisconsin" because of his anti-abortion views.
Scott Walker's campaign shot back, accusing Barrett of holding even more extreme positions because he once voted against banning a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion. Obama's Final Swing - Visits for Sestak, Blumenthal and Giannoulias
Democrats have released the final campaign schedule for President Obama, the first lady and Vice President Biden:
On Saturday, Oct. 30, President Obama will attend rallies in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Conn., and Chicago.
The next day, Obama and Biden will meet up in Cleveland for an event,
First lady Michelle Obama is to make campaign appearances in Philadelphia and Las Vegas on the Monday before the election.
And Now, A Word From Charles On the Juan Williams Matter
"Well, I want to start by having people look at this quote from Jesse Jackson about 18 years ago in which he says -- I hope we can put it up on the screen -- that when he walks down the street, hears footsteps, and he starts thinking about robbery, he looks around and when he sees someone who is white, he feels relieved.
Jesse Jackson is saying this. In other words, if the people he looked at were black, he would feel anxiety or fear.
Now, this -- there is nobody in his right behind is going to say that Jesse Jackson is a racist, anti-black racist. He's not. So what's happening here? There are two elements in what he does here. He talks about a feeling, which is related to a statistical fact. The feeling is the anxiety he feels, and the fact he is talking about is implicit, of course, the empirical fact that there is a higher rate of crime among young African-Americans.Now, he regrets this. He regrets this. And he says the feeling of relief is a result of this obviously statistical disparity. Now, think of what Juan has said. It's exactly the same kind of statement. He talks about a feeling he has when he sees a person in Muslim garb. And then he spoke explicitly about how it's related to empirical reality. The empirical reality we all know that overwhelmingly the attacks of terrorism in the world, the attacks on airplanes, buildings, mosques around the world in the last 20 years have been overwhelmingly carried out not by the IRA or the Tamil Tigers or the German Red Army, but by radical Islamists. So he makes a statement that's perfectly parallel with what Jackson said. You explain to me why nobody would attribute hostility, bigotry, or racism in the Jackson statement and, yet, NPR attributes to the Juan Williams' statement, and not only attributes it but does it with such certainty that it dismisses him without even a hearing. I would like to hear one executive at NPR defend that. If not, this is not just a case of political correctness. It's a case of intellectual cowardice."
-- Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."