In one of the nation's most hotly contested races, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dodged attacks from his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, Thursday night while attempting to explain his own voting record.
Angle fired several shots at Reid, blaming him for creating "Band-Aid applications" for health care, thwarting the private sector and, in perhaps the most contentious issue of the night, suggesting Reid became rich on the government's payroll.
The four-term senator denounced the charge as a "low blow."
"Her suggestion that I made money being a senator is really false, and I'm really disappointed she would suggest that," Reid said.
The debate, the only one between the two Senate candidates, focused on wide-ranging issues, including the economy, jobs, health care, abortion and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military.
The Democratic senator spent much of the debate on the defensive, defending the health care bill, his record on Social Security and immigration, as he attempted to explain his voting record to a public wary of President Obama and the Democrats' agenda. Reid used the word "extreme" at least three times to describe Angle and her views, and derided her for mischaracterizing his record.
Angle, meanwhile, drew the contrast from the beginning between her and Reid by portraying the longtime senator as a career politician with an expensive residence in Washington.
Angle is no stranger to controversy. She's taken heat for saying that her job as a senator isn't to create jobs, suggesting that the Department of Education should be abolished and that Social Security should be privatized.
On Thursday, the Tea Party-backed candidate stood firmly by her views. She refused to apologize for what Reid said was a mischaracterization of his views on job creation and providing tax breaks to illegal immigrants, or her idea that Social Security should be privatized.
Instead, she placed the blame squarely on Reid for helping pass the health care bill and supporting Obama's policies.
"Man up, Harry Reid," Angle quipped. "You need to understand we have a problem with Social Security."
For both Angle and Reid, the debate was a test of whether they could go beyond attacks and reinforce their message on issues pertinent to voters. Both campaigns thus far have relied on negative ads to discredit the other.
"I think the senator's challenge is what his challenge has been since he came to public office," said Democratic consultant Billy Vassiliadis. "He doesn't speak in 60-second sound bites. He wants to share information and a lot of details. ... I think the challenge for him is to hone in on himself and focus on himself."
In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl earlier today, Reid said more needs to be done to tackle unemployment, but defended his own record in the Senate.
"We have worked really really hard, but it was such a deep hole," Reid said. "And I wish we could've done more. And I look back, I realize how much more we have to do."
Reid and Angle are in a tight race that experts say eventually will boil down to how many Nevadans turn out at the polls.
Angle has the money advantage. She raised $14.3 million in the third quarter alone, an unprecedented amount for any Senate candidate.