http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/44714.html Comeback: How did Harry Reid do it? Comeback: How did Reid do it? By: Molly Ball November 4, 2010 05:55 PM EDT A lot of people have gone broke betting against Harry Reid over the years, and Tuesday was no exception. How, exactly, did the Senate majority leader win a decisive reelection victory after being all but left for dead? The answer serves as a textbook-worthy case study of hard and soft campaign science. Reid played every angle. If there was an advantage to be taken, no matter how slim, he seized it. Aided by a top-flight campaign team and prodigious fundraising, he made sure no opportunity went to waste. In the end, he captured over 50 percent of the vote to Republican Sharron Angle's 45 percent. He overcame his home-state voters' often intense disapproval of his performance and President Barack Obama; a Republican wave that brought down long-serving Democrats across the country; the fury and passion of the tea party; and dire local and national economic conditions. What follows is a step-by-step guide to the Harry Reid method of winning elections. Plan ahead Reid saw years ago that he would have a tough reelection in 2010, and he vowed not to let happen to him what happened to his friend Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader who was defeated in South Dakota in 2004. Thereâs a school of thought that believes Daschle was caught napping. Reid had actually started building up the Nevada Democratic apparatus back in 2002, after the party suffered a series of defeats in statewide races to a better-organized state GOP. After Reidâs easy 2004 win and ascension to leadership, the work for 2010 began in earnest. He raised nearly $25 million for his campaign, demolishing the previous record â about $7 million â for the state's most expensive campaign ever. He hired top-flight national consultants to work on the race, and they ran a scorched-earth effort, ensuring that every Angle gaffe was unearthed and responding quickly to any new development. Build a machine Reid and his top political adviser, Rebecca Lambe, turned the Nevada State Democratic Party from a squabbling club into a second-to-none professional operation. He used his considerable fundraising muscle to ensure the party had plenty of cash, and oversaw â not to say micromanaged â operations and candidate recruitment at all levels. Reid successfully lobbied the Democratic National Committee to put Nevada on the presidential nominating calendar in 2008 right after Iowa and New Hampshire; Obama, Hillary Clinton and other candidates competed hard in the state, and the party registered 30,000 new Democrats the day of the caucuses alone. Reid's grass-roots operation dovetailed nicely with the Obama campaign's organizing effort, and, as soon as the 2008 election was over, Reid fine-tuned it to work for him. With multiple campaign offices across the state and legions of staffers and volunteers, Reid's turnout operation ensured that even in a Republican year, in a state mad at Democrats, more of his voters were flushed out of their houses and to the polls than Angle's. "There's no question that Harry Reid had a far superior ground game to Sharron Angle," said John L. Smith, a longtime columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "They had hundreds of people walking precincts and driving vans to get voters to the polls. It was easily the best ground game I've seen in 25 years." Turn out the base Reid's campaign realized that it would be impossible to distance their man from the Obama agenda, even as Democrats elsewhere did just that. Instead, Reid embraced the White House. He brought in Obama, the first lady, the vice president and a string of other Democratic base favorites, in an effort to get possibly dispirited Obama voters to feel that 2008 magic again. With the Democrats' registration advantage of about 60,000 voters and the grass-roots machine working its magic, Reid was able to prevail even though Angle was favored among independents by a 4-point margin. Work the Hispanic vote "For years I've been working with the Hispanic community," Reid said Wednesday. "People made fun of me. They said, 'Why are you working with a group that doesn't register, and if they register, they don't vote?'" But with exit polls showing Hispanic voters making up 15 percent of Tuesday's electorate â outpacing their share of the state's registered voters, about 12 percent, and matching their record share of the 2008 vote, 15 percent â "they really flexed their muscle," Reid said. More than two-thirds of Hispanic voters chose Reid, according to the exit polls. While Reid attributed that to Democrats' good works for Hispanics, organizers said it had more to do with Angle. Her campaign's tough anti-illegal immigration ads, featuring menacing dark-skinned gangsters in bandannas, were decried as racist. She memorably told a group of Hispanic students they looked Asian to her. Adding insult to injury, an outside group headed by a Republican named Robert de Posada produced a Spanish-language ad with the message, "Don't Vote." "Hispanics played a major, major role" in Reid's victory, "and we have nobody to thank but Sharron Angle â her and Robert de Posada," said Fernando Romero, president of the Nevada group Hispanics in Politics. "The two of them really brought to light what we were telling people would happen if these people made it." Stay focused, forget loyalty Even as Reid won Tuesday night, his son Rory, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, lost in a landslide, and his colleague in the Nevada delegation, freshman Rep. Dina Titus, went down to a narrow defeat. Reid did little to help either one, sentiment be damned. After all, Rory Reid was running against his father's wishes, and Titus has never been part of Reid's circle in state politics. Reid didn't mention either of them in his victory speech or postelection news conference. His operation maintained a ruthless, single-minded focus on one mission alone: save the leader. It didn't matter whom he had to throw overboard, even his own son. Democratic organizers practically wore treads in the sidewalks of East Las Vegas, the city's Hispanic stronghold, as they pushed to turn out votes for Reid in the final weeks. It didn't matter to them that many of those same voters favored Rory Reid's Hispanic opponent, Republican Brian Sandoval. "We knew we were turning out Sandoval voters," one Democratic staffer said with an oh-well shrug. Cultivate friends in high places Reid is nothing if not a horse-trader and favor-banker, and 2010 was the year he called in every chit. He was the first candidate Obama campaigned for after taking office, and the president visited Nevada four times to fundraise and stump for his right-hand man in the Senate. Other members of Reid's very loyal Senate caucus also pitched in. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin sent staffers to Nevada, even though there was a tight Senate race in his home state. Montana Sen. Max Baucus sent practically his entire staff. "If there was a senator that was not up for reelection, they sent staff to Nevada," a campaign insider said. Most of the casino bosses on the Las Vegas Strip, who have had a reliable friend in Reid, backed him strongly, and they worked with the dominant union to make sure their workers voted for him, too. As some of Reid's campaign ads noted, he personally called some of the same banks the government had just bailed out to ensure that credit didn't get yanked out from under CityCenter, the multibillion-dollar project that opened on the Strip in late 2009. Reid held his victory party there Tuesday night. Co-opt the opposition The old saying that there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics could be Reid's mantra. In 1998, Reid survived his last close call, beating then-Rep. John Ensign by just 428 votes, the closest margin in state history. When Ensign was elected to the state's other Senate seat, the two buried the hatchet, creating a public nonaggression pact so they could work together on state issues. Reid didn't recruit a strong opponent to Ensign in 2006, and Ensign was minimally involved against Reid this year, though in large part because an ongoing sex and ethics scandal also took him out of commission. Other powerful Republicans sided with Reid, like Nevada power broker Sig Rogich, who took a major strategic role in the campaign in addition to recruiting hundreds of businessmen and officials to the "Republicans for Reid" group he formed. Exit polls showed Angle earning 86 percent of her party's vote, versus 91 percent for Reid â a marginal advantage that could have made a big difference had the race been closer.