Tonight, if Sharron Angle beats Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), it will be only the fifth time since party leaders were designated 90 years ago that a leader lost at the ballot box. Of course, it would be no consolation to Reid or his party if he were to be “Daschled.” Former Senator Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) is Reid’s predecessor as Majority Leader, though Daschle lost his re-election after having become Minority Leader.
The comparison between the two men is startling. Sen. Daschle had been in Washington for way too long — 26 years — and touted what he brought home to South Dakota and the importance of the national spotlight. Like Daschle, Reid has been in Washington a long time and served four terms in the Senate — long enough for his antics to become legendary.
While both men mastered Senate procedures and are known for their abilities to get things done, their temperaments are very different. Daschle was known as being “soft spoken and gentle.” On the other hand, Reid has a reputation as something of a loose cannon.
For example, when the Capitol Visitor Center was dedicated, Reid raised a stink about the smell of tourists visiting the Capitol in the summer.
He caused a brouhaha when he called President Barack Obama “light-skinned” and said the president had no negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.
And, of course, he said that town hall protesters angry about the health care bill were “evil-mongers” whose “lies, innuendos, and rumors” drown out productive debate.
Even the climate between the elections of Daschle and Reid are similar. Although Daschle’s loss was called a “historic political upset that stunned the Democrats,” he had been running neck-and-neck in the polls with the candidate who defeated him, current Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), for months.
Daschle’s race was one of the most expensive in the country in 2004. Daschle and Thune raised more than $30 million for their campaigns and flooded the airwaves with countless ads that framed the race as a battle between clout and conservative family values.
In fact, Concerned Women for America (CWA) of South Dakota Director Linda Schauer had earlier paved the way for Daschle’s loss. At every opportunity for years in advance, Schauer highlighted to South Dakotans how Daschle’s Washington values were out of touch with South Dakota. In her letters to the editors, she emphasized how Daschle said one thing in the state and voted another way in Washington.
Likewise, through October 15, Reid and Angle have spent more than $42 million, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. And the polls have shown them neck-and-neck as well. In an ironic twist of fate, this race will be a battle between clout and conservative family values.
There is only one difference between the election in 2004 and 2010 — the allegations of voter fraud. Early voting in Nevada has raised questions about voting machines “accidentally” checking Reid’s name when citizens vote for Angle. Will the unions in Nevada be able to manipulate the machines to hand Reid the win, or will their hopes be “Daschled” at the ballot box?