The polls were wrong: The networks and the AP have called the Nevada Senate race for Majority Leader Harry Reid. With 41% of precincts reporting, Reid is leading Angle, 50% to 45%.
Angle lost because she was a deeply flawed candidate. She made a number of verbal gaffes--"second Amendment remedies," "we really have spoiled our citizenry," "turn lemons into lemonade," etc.--and her war on the press didn't help. Perhaps most damaging was her statement that she wanted to ultimately "phase Medicare and Social Security out." She later denied she said this, but couldn't really explain what her position was.
Meanwhile, in the Nevada governor's race, Reid's son Rory is losing to Republican Brian Sandoval, 54% to 42%. If Sandoval had run for Senate, he would have almost certainly won. And though Angle's primary opponents Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian were not flawless, they probably would have eked out a win over Harry Reid.
Perhaps the lesson of the 2010 Senate races is that candidates matter. All of the structural factors pointed to a GOP win in Nevada: a 14% unemployment rate, the highest foreclosure rate in the country, Reid's 55% disapproval rating. But voters were simply turned off by Angle, who had a 53% unfavorable rating.
Like Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell lost a Senate race in Delaware that another Republican--whether Mike Castle or Delaware's version of Ron Johnson or Kelly Ayotte--probably would have won. Perhaps this is a lesson that Republicans will heed as they head into 2012.