LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid basked in his re-election Wednesday after Nevada voters helped him turn back a challenge from a Tea Party-backed Republican he painted as too extreme for the state.
The veteran Democrat won his fifth term with strong support from self-described moderates and voters who considered former state lawmaker Sharron Angle too conservative, according to exit polling. With 99 percent of precincts counted, Reid led Angle 50 percent to 45 percent after a race that polls had indicated was neck-and-neck until the end.
“For me, this is not eking out a race,” Reid told CNN’s “American Morning” on Wednesday. “I’ve had some close ones. This wasn’t close.”
His victory helped ensure Democrats would retain control of the Senate, which Reid has led since 2007, despite GOP gains of at least six seats in other states.
Angle has said Social Security and Medicare should be phased out and once warned that “Second Amendment solutions” might be needed to check federal power. With strong support from Tea Party organizations outside Nevada, she beat a better-funded GOP establishment candidate in the party’s primary for the right to take on Reid.
Reid was running in a state with the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 14.4 percent, as well as the highest foreclosure rate. But during the campaign, the former boxer warned that Angle’s “extreme” positions would make things worse.
“Today, Nevada chose hope over fear,” Reid said as he declared victory. “Nevada chose to move forward, not backward.”
Exit polling indicated Reid racked up a lead of 65 percent to 31 percent among self-described moderates, who made up about 40 percent of Tuesday’s electorate. In addition, 44 percent of voters questioned in the exit polling considered Angle “too conservative,” while 13 percent deemed her not conservative enough and 31 percent called her positions “about right.”
Reid also led strongly among blue-collar voters and among the 41 percent of households in which someone has lost a job in the past two years, the polls found. Reid led Angle 50-39 percent among voters with a recent layoff in their immediate family.
The surveys found Reid had overwhelming support among African-American, Latino and Asian voters, who made up a combined 25 percent of the electorate, while Angle led 53-41 among whites.
The polls showed Angle leading Reid among seniors, who were nearly a quarter of the electorate, by an 11-percentage-point margin. And she edged him out 48-46 among voters between 50 and 64, who made up another third of the vote. But Reid led Angle by double-digit margins among voters between 18 and 50.
And Reid dominated the results in the state’s major population center of Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County, which he carried 55-41 percent.
In conceding, Angle urged Reid to “remember our Constitution” and the message sent by GOP victories around the rest of the country, which she interpreted as “lower taxes, less government regulation, more individual freedom” and a repeal of the Obama administration’s signature health care act, which Reid marshaled through the Senate against unanimous GOP opposition.
“We didn’t awaken to go back to sleep. We awakened to fight for that freedom, so that we can have liberty for our children and our grandchildren,” Angle said.