Harry Reid wears the scars of previous close encounters.
The 27-year Washington veteran lost his first U.S. Senate race in 1974 by a mere 600 votes. In 1998, he survived a challenge from John Ensign, prevailing by 428 votes.
So here he is again, locked in a tight battle, this time against Sharron Angle, a bit player on the Nevada political scene until she pulled off a surprise in June's Republican primary.
Six years ago, 12 years ago, even 18 years ago, a man of Sen. Reid's stature might have cruised to victory against such a rookie opponent.
But this isn't 2004 or 1998.
Something has stirred millions of Americans, perhaps waking them from their "who cares what happens in Washington" slumber. Independents and Republicans are energized, their grass-roots mobilized. The GOP sees control of the House -- perhaps even the Senate -- on the horizon.
And they seek to make Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, their top trophy.
The good senator is 70 years old now, his gait a bit slower, his countenance slightly weary. He's become prone to verbal gaffes and sometimes loses his place while delivering the campaign stemwinder. As he has climbed higher and higher in the Democratic hierarchy, he has veered further and further to the left, becoming politically disconnected from Nevada and its residents.
For the past two years, Sen. Reid has been a water boy for the Obama White House, which is pushing perhaps the most radical liberal agenda in the country's history.
Whether it's shoving the unpopular and hugely expensive ObamaCare down the throats of the American people, or rewarding failing companies with taxpayer bailouts, or ginning up expensive and futile "stimulus" packages larded with pork that push the nation closer and closer to fiscal chaos, Sen. Reid has cheered them all.
Meanwhile, the senator endorses a cap-and-trade bill that would impose massive new taxes in the name of advancing green energy, forever disrupting the economy, making the nation considerably poorer and less competitive in world markets. He has encouraged the explosion of a bureaucracy that now tells us what types of light bulbs we may use, which washers and dryers we may purchase and whether we can fill in puddles on our own property.
All this while the nation remains ravaged by recession -- yet Mr. Obama and Sen. Reid can't understand why small businesses won't hire when the president routinely makes openly hostile comments about the private sector and Congress threatens to raise taxes on millions of entrepreneurs.
The Obama playbook -- to which Sen. Reid hitched his fortunes -- has failed miserably. Las Vegas is mired in 15 percent unemployment
Seriously crippled by this much baggage, Sen. Reid has calculated that his survival depends on portraying Ms. Angle as an "extremist" who would endanger women, children and the elderly.
In fact, Ms. Angle is well within the mainstream on most issues and embraces a political philosophy popular with millions of Americans who are making themselves heard this election cycle.
Ms. Angle sees government expanding to meddle in virtually every aspect of our lives and she stands up to say enough is enough. She sees red ink from sea to shining sea and she argues for a different direction -- one that forces Washington to live within its means, while keeping taxes at relatively low rates. She sees a crushing debt being foisted on our children and grandchildren and she demands fiscal restraint.
Sharron Angle sees entitlement programs that cannot be sustained without significant reforms and she has the courage to offer solutions. She sees an arrogant federal government that routinely ignores its constitutional boundaries, and she isn't shy about trying to push it back behind the fence.
Say this about Sharron Angle: You know what you're going to get. She's a reliable vote for individual rights, smaller government and constitutional principles.
On the other hand, a vote for Harry Reid is a vote for the status quo in Washington. More of the same big spending. More of the same bloated bureaucracies. More of the same partisan bickering. More of the same inaction on Social Security and Medicare. More of the same class warfare on taxation. More of the same disdain for the job-creating private sector.
The direction of this nation is at stake. This election offers a clear choice.
Harry Reid has an inspiring life story. But the boy who came from modest means in little Searchlight is no more. Instead, he's become Harry Reid, champion of liberal special interests inside the beltway.
That's why Nevadans should support Sharron Angle in this pivotal election.