US & Canada

US Elections 2010: Harry Reid survives 'toughest' fight

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Media captionHarry Reid expresses his thanks to the people of Nevada

People were slow to arrive at the Democrats' party in the vast convention centre in Las Vegas. It seemed it might be something of an omen.

The last slew of polls had all put Senator Harry Reid's opponent - the Tea Party favourite, Sharron Angle - in the lead by a few percentage points, within the margin of error.

Slowly they trickled in, Democratic Party workers, volunteers and supporters.

They mainly hung around at the back of the room, where the food and drink were being served.

Behind them a large platform loomed, crowded with media organisations, all smelling a big scalp for the taking.

And beyond that was the stage bearing two lonely stacks of balloons and a larger banner saying "Senator Harry Reid".

I am sure I was not the only person who wondered how much longer the Senate majority leader would have that title.

'One of the toughest'

Gradually - perhaps as the alcohol and the poll results flowed - people gravitated towards the stage, buoyed by several speakers. The muted sentiment edged up a notch.

And then, from the jaws of defeat, Harry Reid snatched victory.

A little after 2100 local time (0400 GMT), we got the first results of the early voting.

We knew the Democrats had an effective machine and more registered voters in Nevada than Republicans.

But as soon as it emerged that Reid was ahead in early voting, the atmosphere came alive.

A short while later, the first projections came that Reid would retain his seat and Democrats rejoiced.

Suddenly the stage area filled up. People chanted, "Harry! Harry!", just as President Barack Obama had done during the run-up to the election.

Democratic staffers had no idea when their victorious senator would address the ebullient crowd.

Image caption Many among the partisan crowd in Las Vegas said they had never worried

And then, after a string of speakers including his son, Rory, who had just lost in his bid to become Nevada's governor, Mr Obama's right-hand man appeared on stage, meekly edging in from the side with his wife.

The soon-to-be fifth-term senator is not known as a public speaker, but he started well and simply.

"Today, Nevada chose hope over fear. Nevada chose to look forward, not backward," he said.

He went to talk about how he had been a boxer and how he had been in some tough fights, in the ring and in the Senate.

"I have to admit this has been one of the toughest," he added.

'Not perfect'

Many among the partisan crowd said they had never worried.

Mirella Prieto, 21, and her 20-year-old sister, Michelle, were among the last to leave the party (and possibly therefore among Mr Reid's most fervent supporters).

They said they were not surprised he had won.

Abraham Campejo from Las Vegas admitted he had been nervous about the race.

"Harry Reid's not perfect," he said, "but he's good."

Heather Caliguire, 28, had worked as a volunteer for the Reid campaign.

Now she was wearing a decorative tiara and proudly holding a banner.

"I was nervous, but optimistic," she said. "I have done a lot of phone calling and knocking on doors... and independents have been coming out for him."

Independent voters swung Nevada for Mr Obama in 2008, but polls suggested they favoured Ms Angle ahead of Tuesday's election.

Image caption Senator Reid spent nearly an hour on the floor of the ballroom greeting well-wishers

Heather the volunteer admitted that on doorsteps she had had to ''remind people what the Democrats have done".

"Harry Reid sometimes leads a quiet campaign. I wish he was a bit louder!''

And as for the senator, he spent nearly an hour on the floor of the ballroom greeting well-wishers and those who had worked on his behalf.

I managed to get close to him brandishing a recorder, but he refused to answer when I asked: "What message do you think the voters were sending?"

"We'll speak to the media tomorrow," he replied.

And with that he was gone, safe in the knowledge that while things may become harder for the Democrats, at least for him there will be a tomorrow.

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