Old and busted: Tea Party candidates ruining GOP chances in midterms.  New hotness: Republicans about to do the wave.  The only race that offered any evidence at all of a Tea Party handicap just evened up, according to Rasmussen:

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Democratic Senator Harry Reid and his Republican challenger Sharron Angle tied with 47% of the vote each. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and two percent (2%) are undecided.

Two weeks ago, Reid held a two-point advantage over Angle.

Earlier this year, Reid was considered to be one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents. He picked up just 39% of the vote following Angle’s primary victory but has seen his own numbers improve to 41% in late June, 43% in early July, 45% in late July and 47% today. …

When leaners are included in the new totals, Angle attracts 50% of the vote, while Reid picks up 48%. This is the first Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 survey in Nevada to include leaners. Leaners are those who initially indicate no preference for either of the candidates but answer a follow-up question and say they are leaning towards a particular candidate.

Why the increase in Angle’s support over the last few weeks?  As I wrote earlier this summer, Harry Reid used a good chunk of his campaign warchest immediately after the primaries to make Angle look extreme and unqualified.  Jim Geraghty points out that Angle has spent the last few weeks making up the difference:

It’s as if Angle had launched a big television advertising offensive that was going toe-to-toe with Reid and freezing the race where it is, instead of holding her resources until the fall. Something like $575,000 in a week. Somebody ought to write about that.

The internals show why Reid remains vulnerable no matter how much money he spends.  Nevada’s unemployment is now the highest in the country, and voters have noticed it.  Eighty percent believe the country is still in recession, no matter how much Joe Biden talks about “Recovery Summer.”  A majority think the economy is getting worse (53%), while only 26% think it’s improving — hardly an endorsement of Reid’s “stay the course” campaign.  Meanwhile, Barack Obama gets only a 45/55 approval rating in Nevada.

For that matter, Reid’s on the wrong side of policy, too.  While his party dithers on the expiring 2001-3 tax cuts, Nevadans worry about the impact.  Forty-eight percent think their expiration will hurt the economy, and only 27% think it will help.  Nevadans are evenly divided on whether to extend all of them (46%) or all but those for the wealthiest Americans (47%), but since the Democrats aren’t doing anything about it at all, the issue is ripe for highlighting by the GOP.  Fifty-five percent oppose the ObamaCare mandate written by Reid himself in the final version of the bill, so the one “victory” from this Congress won’t convince anyone to swing back to the Democrats.

Angle has to keep focused on the economy, ObamaCare, and the radical agenda that Reid enabled as Senate Majority Leader.  The momentum we’re seeing now after Reid’s early offensive can continue to grow, assuming Angle doesn’t get derailed by distractions.