* Obama says voters have clear choice
* Defeat for Senate leader would be big blow for Democrats
* Foreclosure crisis a top issue for Nevada voters (New throughout with Las Vegas rally)
LAS VEGAS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, fighting to keep Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate, accused Republicans on Friday of peddling discredited “snake oil ideas” about the U.S. economy.
On a five-day sprint through western states, he also entered the highest profile race of the Nov. 2 congressional elections -- a contest between Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.
Obama portrayed the embattled Reid as a champion for the middle class who stays awake at night worrying about people whose houses have been foreclosed.
“You know, Harry’s not the flashiest guy, let’s face it,” Obama told a crowd of about 9,000 people in Las Vegas. “Harry kind of speaks in a very soft voice. He doesn’t move real quick. He doesn’t get up and make big stem-winding speeches. But Harry Reid does the right thing.”
Races in the West are among a handful that could determine whether Democrats hold onto their majority in the Senate.
Many pollsters predict Republicans will win enough seats to take control of the House of Representatives, which could put the brakes on Obama’s legislative agenda. Surveys show Democrats are also likely to lose Senate seats but could keep a slim majority in the chamber.
The congressional elections are widely seen as a referendum on Obama’s own record and the loss of Reid’s seat in Nevada would be seen as a big blow for the president and his party.
In another important race, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer is facing a tough challenge from Republican Carly Fiorina, a former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina has shown strength in the state despite its strongly Democratic leanings.
At a rally at the University of Southern California that drew more 37,000 people, Obama portrayed the election as a “choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that will get us out.”
He acknowledged that economic woes made for a tough election climate for Democrats, but said Republicans seeking control of Congress did not have the answer.
“They are clinging to the same worn-out, tired snake oil ideas that they were peddling before,” Obama said, referring to Bush-era policies he blames for putting the economy in a deep hole that it is still struggling to climb out of.
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Republicans counter that Obama has hurt the economic recovery with wasteful government spending, job-killing financial regulations and other policies.
REID TRAILS RIVAL
Reid is slightly trailing Angle in Nevada, which has the nation’s highest unemployment rate and the greatest rate of home foreclosures.
Frustrations with the economy’s weakness are hurting Democratic candidates across the country but are pronounced in Nevada, which has a jobless rate of 14.4 percent.
In his campaign speech Obama did not specifically mention a fiasco over home foreclosure documents issued by banks, but he did allude to the crisis in U.S. housing and the toll it has taken on families.
“Families are hanging on by a thread. A lot of folks are seeing their homes lose a lot of value. A lot of foreclosures out here,” Obama said. “It keeps me up at night, it keeps Harry Reid up at night. That’s what keeps us fighting.”
Angle has taken aim at Reid over his ownership of condominium he owns at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.
But Obama said Reid is not someone who was born with a “silver spoon” in his mouth and that he comes from a family of “working folk.”
Many analysts have been surprised by Angle’s strength against Reid in Nevada.
Angle has taken some positions that are more conservative than those of many voters and she has made several gaffes. But Reid has been criticized for what some analysts viewed as a lackluster performance against Angle in a recent debate. (Writing by Caren Bohan and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by John O’Callaghan and Chris Wilson)
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