In his uphill race to hold onto his seat as Senate Majority Leader, the best thing beleaguered Harry Reid has going for him seems to be his Republican opponent.
Sharron Angle is a favorite of the burgeoning “tea party” movement. But she brings with her fight to enter the political big time a set of controversial positions, statements, and affiliations that GOP leaders are having to scrub, explain, or make excuses for.
Still, a Rasmussen Reports poll of likely Nevada voters last week had Angle ahead of Reid by a substantial 50-39 percent – as much a reflection of Reid’s unpopularity as a four-term Washington insider as anything else.
Reid, quite naturally, is keeping the focus as much as possible on Angle.
Take her recent comments on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” the powerful gun lobby and its millions of supporters’ favorite amendment to the US Constitution.
Citing Thomas Jefferson’s notion about the periodic need for revolution, Angle told conservative talk radio host Lars Larson: “If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” She’s said essentially the same thing in other venues.
Whether or not Angle is actually suggesting armed opposition to political opponents, she’s also associated herself with some of the tenets of the “Oath Keepers,” a controversial group that claims a membership of law enforcement officers and active duty military personnel ready to disobey any “orders to disarm the American people” (among other things).
At a press luncheon this week, former House majority leader Dick Armey (R) of Texas suggested that Angle (who was member of the Nevada State Assembly for eight years) probably regrets her comments about any need for “a Second Amendment remedy” to a Congress led by the likes of Harry Reid.
“People in the public arena are often going to say things they wish they hadn’t said,” Armey told reporters. “I’ll bet you five minutes after she said that, she said ‘Dang! I wish I hadn’t said that’.”
On her visit to Capitol Hill this week, Republican leaders hustled Angle between closed-door meetings, avoiding journalistic entrapment.
Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, found himself having to explain why Angle had once been a member of the Independent American Party, founded in Nevada (according to its website) because “the Republican Party was growing too corrupt and socialistic.”
Meanwhile, Angle’s campaign is hustling to put its own spin on her history.
“Until just a few days ago,” reports Politico, “you could find Sharron Angle’s policy positions on her campaign website – even ones as controversial as pulling the country out of the United Nations, privatizing Social Security and abolishing the Energy and Education departments. But no more…. her website has been scrubbed.”
Now, the main message on Angle’s website is a bid to raise $1 million in campaign funds. She’ll need that and a lot more. Reid plans to spend between $20 million and $25 million on his reelection campaign.
But at this point, Angle – riding the wave of tea party enthusiasm for ousting establishment incumbents – appears to have at least an even chance of beating Reid.
"Angle can be competitive simply because a big part of this race is about Reid," Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But as for Reid, Ms. Duffy added, “He must feel like it's Christmas. He got exactly the candidate he wanted, someone with a record that provides plenty of fodder to exploit."