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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Nevada Blame Game

Republican Sharron Angle’s latest attack ad gets the facts about Nevada’s miserable economy right, but invites a questionable conclusion.

The ad is called "Please Stop," and it mocks Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign slogan of "no one can do more" for Nevada. In the ad, Angle concedes that Reid "has done more for Nevada," but she doesn’t mean it in a good way. The ad, which began airing July 21, gets the basic facts right:

  • Angle says in her ad, "We have the highest bankruptcy rate in the nation," and that’s true. Nevada’s per capita bankruptcy filing rate of 11.7 percent was tops among all states for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2010, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
  • She also says that "we have the highest foreclosure rate in the nation," and that’s true as well. The state had the highest rate of foreclosure filings during the first six months of 2010, according to RealtyTrac, a company that monitors foreclosures throughout the country. (But the group did find Nevada’s filings actually had decreased 13 percent compared with the last six months of 2009 and 6 percent compared with the first six months of the same year.)
  • And just as Angle states, the state’s unemployment rate has also gone from just 4.4 percent when Reid became Senate majority leader in January 2007, to its current projected rate of 14.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Things could definitely be better in the Silver State, to be sure. But Angle’s ad attempts to attribute all these woes to Reid personally; Angle repeatedly says "he’s done" these things. That’s questionable, to put it mildly. Many analysts attribute Nevada’s high unemployment rate to the recession, compounded by the fact that so many of the state’s jobs have been in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is dependent on discretionary spending by Americans who have been doing less of that lately, and construction, which is off nationwide. Bankruptcies and foreclosures go hand-in-hand with high unemployment.

Could one senator wreck the state’s economy, as Angle’s ad invites viewers to conclude? Would things have turned out any differently if Angle had been in the Senate instead of Reid? Those are questions for Nevadans to ponder.