GOP chairwoman eyes Reid challenge

Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden announced Wednesday she would step down from her post in order to explore a challenge to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

During a conference call with state party leaders, Lowden said she will leave her post Sept. 30. She said that, because some Republicans are already in the race, it would be "important to remove any perceptions of possible conflicts with my duties as chairman."

"I’ve always said that it’s one thing to complain, yet entirely different to get in the ring," Lowden said. "Both as a state senator and as party chairman, I have always been willing to put my words to action."

Lowden would begin the race against Reid in a strong position. A survey for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, conducted Aug. 17-18 by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, showed Lowden leading Reid by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin.

But she will have to get through a competitive primary first. The same poll showed Lowden losing to Danny Tarkanian, a businessman who ran for secretary of state in 2006, by a 33 percent to 14 percent margin. Tarkanian, son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, leads Reid by a 49 percent to 38 percent margin.

Both Tarkanian and Lowden lead Reid by wide margins among independent voters; Tarkanian has a 32-point lead, while Lowden is up 22 points.

A poll released Thursday, conducted for the liberal blog DailyKos by independent Research 2000, also showed both Tarkanian and Lowden leading Reid.

The DailyKos poll has Tarkanian up 45 percent to 40 percent, while Lowden leads Reid 44 percent to 41 percent. The poll, conducted Monday to Wednesday, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The polls, and Lowden's willingness to get in the uphill battle against Reid, underscore the majority leader's precarious political position. Reid has said he plans to spend $25 million to win a fifth term, and at the end of June he already had $7.3 million in the bank.

Reid is the most popular of the state's three top elected officials, but that doesn't say much when he is competing against Sen. John Ensign (R), who admitted to an affair with a former staffer earlier this summer, and Gov. Jim Gibbons (R), whose first three years in office have been marked by investigations into a sexual harassment charge, a very public divorce and a series of political and personal missteps.

Reid is viewed favorably by 37 percent of Silver State voters, while Ensign is seen in the same light by just 30 percent. Only 15 percent say they see Gibbons favorably.

A spokesman for Reid's campaign was not immediately available for comment.