March 27, 2010

Tea Party protest goes to Reid's hometown in Nevada

By the CNN Wire Staff

Tea Party activists plan to protest against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Saturday in his hometown in Nevada.

(CNN) -- Caravans of Tea Party activists will roll into Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hometown in rural Nevada on Saturday to rally for his defeat in November.

Sarah Palin, who derided big government spending and "the Obama Pelosi Reid agenda" on Friday, will headline the event dubbed "Showdown in Searchlight."

The stop is part of the latest cross-country protest against big government and health care reform. Activists hope the protest will carry a strong symbolic message.

Reid, the four-term Democratic incumbent, is from the small town, which has one gas station and a McDonald's restaurant. Earlier in the week, activists in RVs started arriving at the rally site, an undeveloped piece of land down a mile-long dirt road.

The town is not equipped to handle the crowd if it's anywhere close to the 10,000 people organizers predict will show up, County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said.

Sisolak said he also has other concerns."There are abandoned mines people could fall into, it's a habitat for the desert tortoise and people need to know it's a $25,000 fine if they pick one up," he said.

Reid is arguably the Tea Party's top target. He is one of the key Democratic leaders responsible for pushing President Obama's priorities through Congress and carries a lot of political baggage in a year that finds much anger directed at incumbents.

In January, a Mason-Dixon poll showed 33 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Reid while 52 percent had an unfavorable opinion -- some of the worst numbers he has faced in years.

"I don't think many voters in Nevada dislike me. I think we have an economic situation in Nevada that is very difficult," Reid told CNN in a recent interview in Las Vegas.

The state's economy is in dire straits. It leads the nation in foreclosures, and its 13 percent unemployment rate is second only behind Michigan's.

Those vying to challenge Reid on the Republican side are pouncing.

"He has lost touch with what is going on here in Nevada," said businesswoman and former state GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden, who is leading the pack among the Republican hopefuls.

"It is all about jobs. His solution is to put the country more in debt, to tax the country more, to put our children and grandchildren at risk for years and years of being in debt," Lowden said.

Earlier in March, Lowden told CNN she's a proud member of the Tea Party Movement.

Another Republican challenger, businessman Danny Tarkanian, said Reid has "alienated himself from the people of Nevada, and the economy is getting worse and worse and worse."

Also not helping Reid were two recent quips by President Obama about not wasting money in Las Vegas.

Reid, who is not facing a serious primary challenge, aired ads last year aimed at promoting what he has done to help improve the economy as well as introducing himself to thousands of new voters who have moved to Nevada since his last election.

"To say Harry Reid is going to run a scorched-earth campaign against whomever this nominee is ... he has a reputation for doing whatever it takes to win -- no more so than this year. And he is going to have all the money to do it," said Nevada political newsletter editor Jon Ralston.

For his part, Reid, known as a tenacious fighter and who has come out ahead in previous close elections, will push the message against his opponents of how much he has done for the state.

But he said he will not campaign differently than he has in the past.

"People in the state of Nevada know me," Reid said. "I'm not going to be changing who I am for an election. I'm just who I was when I started this a long time ago, and I continue to be the same person I used to be, as I am today and will work very hard to meet the additional requirements that come with a changing economy that we have."

The Tea Party Express is scheduled to end up in Washington on April 15, which is Tax Day. The group's travel plans are part of its "Just Vote Them Out Tour" Some local organizers prefer to call the Searchlight gathering a "conservative Woodstock."