Reid's Surging Where It Counts: Independents

| Tue Jul. 20, 2010 2:46 PM EDT

Out in Nevada, the Harry Reid-Sharron Angle slugfest will almost surely be decided by the state's growing bloc of centrist, undecided voters. They're the ones possibly pissed at Reid for helping to pass a massive health insurance reform bill, but also put off by Angle's right-wing extremism and propensity for rhetorical gaffes (rape and incest victims should just make "a lemon situation into lemonade," the unemployed are "spoiled", etc.) In Reid's case, those independents are crucial to his success. "That’s who’s driving his negatives, the people who voted for him six years ago and now say he's too much a part of the Washington establishment," says University of Nevada-Reno political scientist Eric Herzik. "If he can woo them back, he wins."

According to a new poll, Reid's beginning to do just that. His support among independents has climbed from 24 percent to 38 percent, Public Policy Polling reported today. And when stacked next to his tea party-endorsed candidate, Reid's standing among independents looks even rosier, the PPP poll found:

Where Lowden had led Reid 62-27 with independents, Angle has only a 51-41 advantage. Where [Sue] Lowden had held Reid to a 75-17 lead with Democratic voters, Angle's nomination has allowed him to expand that to 85-10.

If Reid can keep clawing back more support from independents—especially those who've voted for him before—by highlighting Angle's extreme positions and touting the bacon he's brought back to Nevada, then you'll see that independent support continue climbing. And come November, that independent backing could be the difference between a narrow victory or an embarrassing loss for Harry Reid.