Las Vegas voters vent anger at the ballot box

LAS VEGAS, November 2, 2010 (AFP) – Even folks from the gambling capital of Las Vegas did not much like the hand they were dealt Tuesday in an unusually ugly US mid-term elections.

All across the country Democrats and Republicans were more divided than ever, angry at each other, angry at President Barack Obama, and angry at their own parties.

After trying to choose between Senator Harry Reid, one of the most senior Democrats, or Republican challenger and Tea Party star Sharron Angle, Las Vegas resident Lori Baker, 50, gave up.

“We have this choice between an old man and a crazy lady. I picked none of the above,” Baker, ordinarily a Republican, said in exasperation. “I wish we could start over.”

Regardless of the clear autumn skies greeting voters, the mood was dark across the nation.

The lower house of Congress, plus over a third of the Senate and most governors’ mansions were up for grabs, opening the door to a potentially huge shift in the balance of power in Washington, where Democrats have ruled for two years.

And with the polls turning into a referendum on Obama’s two-year-old presidency and his handling of the stagnant economy, there was little of the festive atmosphere that marked his historic 2008 election as the first black US president.

Among the slew of possible Democratic casualties loomed Reid, a little-loved, long-time Washington power broker and leader of the majority in the Senate.

“I want to get rid of Harry Reid. He’s bad for Nevada. We have the worst unemployment, the worst home foreclosure rate, our economy sucks. And they’re spending way too much money,” said Mike McClain, 58, a retired construction worker.

Not that McClain thought much of Angle, whose embrace of the ferociously anti-government Tea Party has raised eyebrows.

“She’s going to be the lowest senator in the Senate. Nobody’s going to even notice her,” McClain reasoned.

Early indications pointed to strong overall turnout, after record-breaking campaign spending and last-minute barrages of robo-calls and TV adverts.

But it remained uncertain which side would turn out in greater numbers – Democrats rushing to the defense of the Obama administration, or Republicans energized by the Tea Party movement.

In Harlem, a historically African-American, pro-Democratic neighborhood of New York, a sense of urgency reigned as voters streamed to polling stations before heading to work.

“The reason I got up early to come here today is a lot of people figure a Republican win is a done deal and therefore they won’t bother coming to vote,” said Andrew Miles, 46, who works in advertising.

“I want to make sure that doesn’t happen, or at least know that I played my part.”

But Liberty, Missouri resident Tricia Meyer said Republicans smelled blood.

“I think this country has been awakened, and we’ll see a bigger turnout than anybody expected,” Meyer said after voting.

“We’ve got to get the Republicans back in there,” added Ima Rahter, who also voted at Liberty’s Hosanna Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Another local, Bob Couch, said he had voted for the local Republican candidate for the US Senate because he supported “smaller government and less taxes.”

That pro-business theme echoed around the country.

“I’m unemployed for almost one year,” said Republican voter Tom Gutierrez, 41, in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. “I need to find a job and I’m sure I will not get it with the Democrats.”

Others were more forgiving.

“It is too early to tell. People forgot what the situation was when Obama came to power. What we need in our business is stability and that is what we are looking for,” said Dan Lustig, who works in real estate near Wall Street in New York.

Timothy Smith, 52, echoed the general sense of unease, after casting his ballot on the way to work in the Wall Street area.

“I voted Democrat in the last election and I am somehow disappointed but won’t change my vote,” he said.

“For me it was about choosing the best of two evils, and I voted Democratic because the alternative was worse.”

(By Steve Friess)

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