Reid and Angle Spar on Health Care, Economy

Reid and Angle Spar on Health Care, Economy

By Scott Conroy - October 15, 2010

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle squared off in their only scheduled debate in Las Vegas on Thursday, and both candidates traded the kinds of stinging barbs against one another that had previously been confined to the airwaves.

Moderated by Nevada PBS host Mitch Fox, the nationally televised debate marked the focal point in what has been perhaps the marquee race of this election cycle.

The Nevada Senate race pits Angle, a tea party-backed former state assemblywoman, against Reid--one of the national stalwarts of the Democratic Party, who is in the toughest election fight of his career as he seeks a fifth term.

From the moment the debate began, Angle went on the attack against Reid, using some particularly blunt language to challenge the experienced debater.

In one of the more memorable lines of the night, Angle responded to Reid's assertion that Social Security did not need to be privatized by saying, "Man up, Harry Reid. You need to understand we have a problem with Social Security."

As she has done relentlessly since winning the GOP nomination, Angle accused Reid of being the embodiment of what is wrong with Washington and challenged him to defend the Democratic legislative record, particularly on health care reform.

Angle repeatedly stressed her desire to "get government out of the process" on health care, while Reid defended reform by placing it in the context of economic recovery.

"We had to do health insurance reform to remain competitive in the world economy, and it creates jobs--thousands and thousands of jobs," Reid said.

When it was his turn to go on the attack, Reid again tried to keep the focus on the economy. He cited Angle's past suggestion that it was not the responsibility of a U.S. senator to create jobs.

"What she's talking about is extreme," Reid said.

Angle appeared prepared to counter Reid's charge on the point. "Harry Reid, it's not your job to create jobs," she said, again addressing the senator by his full name. "It's your job to create policy."

In one of the few surprises of the night, when asked to name a current or former Supreme Court justice he admired, Reid cited the legal acumen of conservative justice Antonin Scalia, although he said that he did not often agree with Scalia's rulings.

Asked the same question, Angle said that she admired Justice Clarence Thomas and would not have voted to confirm either of President Obama's two appointees to the high court: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Early voting in Nevada begins on Saturday, and the race remains a dead heat in recent polls.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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