Angle, on the other hand, is riding the anti-incumbent wave. She has blasted Reid on taxes, spending, supporting President Obama's stimulus plan and even using taxpayer money to pay for Viagra for child molesters and sex offenders.
Angle attempted to portray tonight's debate as a contrast between Washington, represented by a career politician well skilled at debates, and the rest of the country.
But Angle herself is no stranger to controversy. Even before she won the primary, Angle came under fire for opposing federal government programs popular among Americans such as Social Security and Medicare.
Most recently, she was derided for suggesting that sharia law is taking hold in Dearborn, Mich., and Frankford, Texas. Dearborn is governed by the U.S. Constitution and the town of Frankford was annexed by Dallas in 1975.
Republicans cite Angle's whopping fundraising figures as a sign of her popularity and say the Tea Party-favored candidate shouldn't be discounted.
Angle, buoyed by national Tea Parties, beat former state Republican chairwoman Sue Lowden in the primaries in an upset that stunned the Republican establishment.
But Republicans threw their full support behind her in what they see as a chance to topple the Senate majority leader in a replay of 2004, when Republicans regained majority in the Senate by defeating Tom Daschle.
Danny Tarkanian, who also ran against Angle in the Republican primary but now supports the GOP candidate, said Angle's challenge will be to focus on issues where she can hit Reid's record.
"The race is about Harry Reid and the economy," Tarkanian said. "Sharron's objective has got to be to keep the focus away from her and on Reid and the economy. And if she does, she'll be in great shape."
Reid has stepped up campaign events in recent weeks, bringing Democratic bigwigs like former President Bill Clinton and President Obama to Nevada.
Both were needed to energize Democrats. In a climate where enthusiasm within the party is relatively low, that push will help.
"They're coming out for one reason and one reason only, and that's to energize the base turnout, which Reid needs," Ralston said. "He needs to bridge that enthusiasm gap. He needs veteran Democratic voters to turn out, that there's a perceived and a real lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket. So yes, he needs that help."
Clinton energized the crowd for Reid Tuesday night, and Obama will make his third trip to Nevada next week to attend a rally for the majority leader.