Political experts say 2010 could be a difficult year for President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party allies in Congress. Most analysts predict that Republicans will make gains in this year's midterm congressional elections. And they say the president's popularity and his health care reform plan will be major issues in the campaign.
At the recent monthly meeting of the Red Rock Democratic Club on the outskirts of Las Vegas, local party members expressed concerns about President Obama's declining popularity and its possible impact on the November elections.
"Popularity is down. It is down throughout the country and it is down here in Nevada," said Democrat John Punticello.
Others, like Tracy Lawrence, see good news for Democrats in the wake of the successful battle in Congress for health care reform. "Although the health care reform isn't everything we wanted, it is a step. And I think his popularity is going to start to bounce back, I do, because he finally got it through. And I don't think a lot of people thought he could at this point," he said.
Local liberal talk show host Sir Cooper is trying to stir Democrats out of the doldrums on his radio show. He is urging Democrats to get tougher as the election draws near. "They are not as forceful as I would like them to be. See, when the Republicans want something, they go after it. They don't care if they have to run over their mother, their sister or the little kid to get to it. They will go from Point A to Point B to accomplish their goal," he said.
It was a different scene across town a few days later as Republicans gathered at a country-western bar to listen to conservative talk show host Roger Hedgecock.
Among those who came was Republican Sharron Angle. She hopes to win a U.S. Senate seat in Nevada and intends to make President Obama the key issue. "Everything that Mr. Obama has done since he got into the presidency has really been detrimental for small businesses, for the working man, for anyone in America who wants their constitutional government back," he said.
Angle is one of several Republicans hoping to win a June primary to challenge Senator Harry Reid in November. Reid is the Senate Democratic leader who played a key role in passing President Obama's health care reform law.
Reid is trailing in public opinion polls in Nevada. But he said little about his race at a recent Democratic dinner in Las Vegas. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't realize that I am not there for any reason other than I have a contract with the people of the state of Nevada. And I have chosen to try to renew that contract and I will need your help to do that," he said.
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, is also running for re-election this year. She says voters will be looking to candidates from both parties for help in coping with a weak economy. "You know, we have a high unemployment rate; we have the highest foreclosure rate. Those are issues that are serious for everyone and they want answers. They want people who are going to come out and talk to them about how they are going to address those issues, how they are going to create jobs," he said.
Surveys in Nevada show Reid trailing several possible Republican challengers. But Cortez-Masto and other Democrats say they would never count Harry Reid out this early in the race, noting he has won several tough election battles in the past.