STAGECOACH, Nev. — As he embarked on a campaign swing through his home state this week, Sen. Harry Reid didn’t have to look far to see that trouble is coming at him.

A leather-clad biker at a pizza shop refused to shake his hand. A protester waved a sign, “Welcome to Harry Reid’s throw Nevada under the bus tour.” A woman confronted him with two pages of statistics that she said showed Washington is ripping off Nevada.

To top things off, Reid’s customized bus was lashed by a freakish snow storm on a mountain pass, and the next morning he emerged with blood trickling down his hand after squashing it in a door.

During three days of tightly orchestrated campaign events that put the Senate’s most powerful Democrat in front of mostly cheerful crowds, there were reminders of why Reid is among the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation.

He said as much to a crowd Tuesday in Reno: “I need your help. … I have a lot of people who are after me.”

Trailing in polls in his bid for a fifth term, Reid hit the road for the tour that concludes Wednesday in Elko, a town known for its cowboy poetry festival, after long rides through rural Lovelock and Winnemucca. After easily winning re-election in 2004, he’s now playing a different role: incumbent underdog.

Reid is well-financed and faces only token opposition in the June primary, but a string of independent voter surveys suggest he is running behind little-known Republicans who could challenge him in November. With no leading rival to yet emerge, he’s essentially running against himself and the sour economy.

Nevada has been hit hard by double-digit unemployment and record numbers of foreclosures and bankruptcies.

“It’s not me,” Reid said during an interview on his bus, as he munched nuts and dried apricots. “You can go to (Sen.) John McCain in Arizona, you can go to (Sen.) Barbara Boxer in California. It doesn’t matter where you go, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the status quo.”

To his critics, Reid is a politician who long ago lost touch with Libertarian leaning Nevada to join House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in pushing a liberal agenda through Congress.


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