ABC News Projects Sen. Harry Reid Retains Senate Seat

Democrat Sen. Harry Reid will retain his seat in the Senate and his position as majority leader after beating Tea Party favorite Republican Sharron Angle in one of the nastiest campaigns of the season, ABC News projects based on exit polls.

Reid's uphill fight to keep his seat against a less experienced candidate he branded an "extremist," illustrated the difficult road many incumbent Democrats faced this cycle. Had he lost, it would be interpreted as a stunning victory for the Tea Party.

Reid for now will retain the office as majority leader, but with a diminished majority after early returns projected Senate seat losses for the Democrats in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas and North Dakota.

A long, nasty campaign in Nevada had the candidates neck-and-neck in the polls for weeks and each ratcheting up the negativity of their ads to try to gain a lead.

If they differed ideologically, the candidates shared the contempt of Nevada voters, who bristled at what became one of the closest, most contentiouss campaigns in the entire country.

With one of the highest foreclosure and unemployment rates in the country, many Nevadans lashed out at Reid, a senator since 1987 and majority leader since 2007, whose close relationship to President Obama made him a target for frustrated voters and nearly cost him the election.

Despite that anger, Angle, a former teacher and competitive weight-lifter-turned-state-senator who said she does not believe in any federal spending not provided for in the Constitution, could not win the day.

Angle ran under a Tea Party banner, running anti-immigrant ads and pushing a message of limited federal government.

Sen. Harry Reid Projected to Retain Nevada Senate Seat

Both candidates had difficulty connecting with voters. Reid, a career politician, often mumbled or gaffed when he appeared in front of a microphone.

"I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK. Do I need to say more?" Reid said in August comments for which he later apologized.

Prone to gaffes herself, Angle did what she could to simply avoid microphones altogether, sometimes literally running away from the press and communicating her message -- namely that she was not Harry Reid -- through attack ads and via Twitter.

In one ad titled "The Wave," Angle tried to paint Reid as soft on illegal immigration, while portraying Latinos as dangerous.

"Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border," warns the ad's narrator "joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear."

With each attack ad, the candidates pushed the stakes higher to go more and more negative.

In one ad Angle accused Reid of using taxpayer dollars to buy Viagra for convicted sex offenders.

In one of Reid's ads, he accused Angle of attempting to derail a state law that would have effectively turned Nevada into a "safe haven for domestic abusers."