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Harry Reid - Sharron Angle face off in debate

Harry Reid and Sharron Angle meet tonight in a debate pitting the Democratic majority leader and top conservative target against a former state lawmaker and “tea party” favorite in a race emblematic of the nation’s anti-incumbent mood.

After Angle, 61, scored a come-from-behind victory in June’s U.S. Senate primary, political observers wondered if she’d cool her fiery rhetoric in hopes of ousting Reid, 70, the unpopular but well-funded Nevada Democrat who has shepherded President Obama’s agenda.

Angle, for her part, had called for scrapping Social Security, dismissed entitlement programs as “idolatry,” and urged elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency.

RELATED: The LA Times islive blogging the debate beginning at 6 p.m.

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Her campaign has mostly tested the broader appeal of “tea party” values -- and Christian conservatism -- in an economically ailing swing state. Her campaign announced this week that, in three months, she’d raised a stunning $14.3 million, mostly from small-dollar donors.

Reid is tasked with convincing voters that his sway as a Democratic leader outweighs their resentment toward him. But his campaign is looking at another angle that might return him to office.

Long before the “tea party” movement, Nevada lawmakers gave disgruntled and uninterested voters a a “none of these candidates” choice. This year, the turnout for “none” could be a decisive factor in whether Reid returns to power. The race between Reid and Angle is so close, and the disdain for both candidates so high, that the victor will likely triumph by a razor-thin margin. That’s where “none” comes into play.

Reid, who has the most to lose in an anti-incumbent year, has to hope that a significant number of voters will vent their anger by voting “none,” instead of for Angle.

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RELATED: The LA Times islive blogging the debate beginning at 6 p.m.


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