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Harry Reid vs. Sharron Angle: Each Is Vulnerable to Attack -- and Ridicule

5 years ago
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The general election race for the Senate in Nevada began about a half-second after Sharron Angle won the Republican nomination, and one thing was immediately clear: This would be a national spectacle even if Harry Reid were not the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Get ready to re-experience every ill-advised remark Reid has ever made, and get familiar with every odd position Angle has ever taken. Trust me, there is no shortage of either. This is a choice between someone who has said Capitol tourists smell and President Obama has "no Negro dialect," and someone who laments that alcohol is legal, wants to withdraw from the United Nations and would deep-six a good chunk of the federal government. Already the race is on to define each candidate as more out of touch that the other.

Beyond entertainment value, the Nevada contest has deeper significance in that it could become the iconic clash of 2010. That's because these candidates are near-perfect symbols of the larger forces shaping politics today. Reid is the Washington insider and powerbroker, the very face of "the establishment" and the sometimes ugly deal-cutting that gets things done. Angle is the unyielding conservative embraced by anti-tax, anti-spending groups that admire her state legislative record of resisting compromise and sticking to principle.

The former state assemblywoman shot ahead of two rivals in the final weeks of the campaign after an influx of cash and organizing muscle from the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth. Angle also benefited from the collapse of Sue Lowden, a former state senator and party chairwoman who insisted she would have been the stronger candidate against Reid. The onetime front-runner ran such a bumbling campaign under barely any pressure that it's hard to imagine her having survived general-election hardball against Reid, his allies and the Democratic campaign infrastructure. But it's no secret that Reid advisers -- and even some Republicans -- considered Angle an easier target. That's why the Reid campaign spent so much time going after Lowden.

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It's safe to say neither contender is beloved in Nevada. Angle not only was the lone vote against many a legislative initiative, she also took on established Republicans in primaries two cycles in a row. In 2006, she challenged Rep. Dean Heller. He almost lost to her and then to Democrat Jill Derby in what had been a worry-free GOP seat. Two years later Angle annoyed many Republicans by taking on the longtime GOP leader in the state Senate, Bill Raggio. "She's burned a lot of bridges," said David Damore, a political scientist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Many Republicans may go for Angle simply to oust Reid, who had an approval rating of 38 percent in one poll this year. As a Senate leader, Reid has been tarred by the controversial agendas of two presidents -- the bank bailout under George W. Bush, and the stimulus package and health reform bill under Obama. The recession, meanwhile, has taken an especially cruel toll on his state. Nevada has been a national leader in foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment (currently at a record 13.7 percent).

Reid does bring home the bacon, as even some Republicans will concede privately and as his website prominently points out ("25,446 Nevadans received $186,224,568 in credits from the 1st-time homebuyer tax credit program in the last 2 years"). But pork and influence are not enough these days, as senators Arlen Specter and Bob Bennett found out when they failed to win their parties' nominations.

Then there are the "stupid things" Reid says, in Damore's blunt phrase. Mary Cheney, for one, started a Send Harry Packing PAC and already has run a TV ad featuring some of his greatest hits (including "You could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol"). The National Republican Senatorial Committee features a whole "gaffes" section at its Wrong Way Reid website and quickly shot out 15 bizarre statements on Tuesday, some complete with YouTube links. The NRSC also blast-emailed a memo in which Chairman John Cornyn of Texas declared Nevada a "prime pick-up opportunity" for the GOP. He painted a dismal picture of the state and called on voters there to hold Reid accountable.

The good news for Reid is that with Angle as his opponent, the race already is as much about her as it is about him. "Sharrontology is the new buzzword," Nevada pundit Jon Ralston tweeted early Wednesday morning. "The marginalization campaign has begun. Can Angle survive assault?" A new website from ProgressNow Nevada, The Wrong Angle, launched with the candidate's comments on alcohol and her lone vote against a property tax cap (in her view it was unconstitutional).

Angle has many other positions that could prove unpopular, such as wanting to eliminate the Energy and Education departments and the Environmental Protection Agency. She also would privatize Social Security and make Nevada a center for reprocessing nuclear waste. Then there are her Scientology connections and support for a drug treatment program involving massages and saunas for prisoners.

Some of these positions had been available on Angle's website, but the site was non-existent Wednesday morning except for a welcome screen request for contributions. According to a Republican strategist, the site was taken down as part of a "previously scheduled plan to revamp and improve" it. We await the new, improved and possibly less controversial site, and a race that promises to be riveting.

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Goodbye Harry.

June 10 2010 at 11:00 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

this is going to be harry reids last round up

June 10 2010 at 5:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Exact oposite of reid wants to dump the un cut bloated federal gov,burns political bridges whats not to like? The alcohol thing,well I guess nobody's perfect but she sure sounds a lot better than most that we have now.

June 10 2010 at 12:21 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Harry needs to take a long vacation in Venezuela or Cuba, the folks in Nevada do not want him and the United States of America doesn't need him!...Start packing Harry, your time is finally up in November!

June 09 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if Angle wants to bomb, invade, occupy and rebuild Iran also?

June 09 2010 at 8:34 PM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply

This lady wants to privatize Social Security and make Nevada a center for reprocessing nuclear waste , do not think is going to fly.

June 09 2010 at 8:31 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

At the end of the day there is a lot more mud to sling Harry's way.
A flat ton of video and sound bites from the last sevral years
that does not make old Harry look to good. From now to the election Harry is going to wear some key votes around his neck that he can never recover from.
Maybe Angle has some bones in her closet but Harry is doing a good job of beating himself.

June 09 2010 at 8:05 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BUFFALO's comment

Here's the thing. Nevadans don't care how Reid looks. We're used to our senator from Searchlight being a bit bone headed. What we're interested in is what our senators can do for the state. Reid is the first, and probably the last, senate majority leader Nevada will ever have. Angle brings nothing to the state. Could Angle negotiate with democratic senators in California AND republican senators in Utah and Arizona to fight for Nevada to be compensated for our Colorado river water rights? I doubt her absolutist "principles" would help much.

June 10 2010 at 1:58 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

After reids comment about smelling the tourist..How could this man possibly keep his job on that statement alone..these smelly tourist are the people who elected this man and who padded his bank account for all thoese years..un-real..

June 09 2010 at 7:43 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply

No third party , not yet! It will dilute the vote which is what the incumbents want.

June 09 2010 at 7:23 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

After I read the personal stories about Sharron Angle, I now understand why Sarah Palin witheld her Endorsement of Sue Lowden and Danny Tark...Sharron Angle's life story is so very compelling and heart warming. Most of all, she is a person with strong conviction, moral clarity stem from her strong faith in God and love for our Constitutions....
She rose from a humble begining against all odds and won the challenge to defeat Sen.Harry Reid in November. What a great America story!

June 09 2010 at 7:11 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

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