LAS VEGAS -- Jon Ralston, the veteran Nevada political reporter and analyst, has obtained a recording of a meeting in which Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle asks a third-party candidate to quit the race
, and promises access to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Jim DeMint if he does so. The recording also makes clear there is no love lost between Angle and the Washington establishment headed by McConnell.
Angle, who is trying to oust Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, made her thus far unsuccessful pitch to Scott Ashjian, who is running as the Tea Party of Nevada nominee. Angle trailed Reid by 1 to 5 points in five polls last month
. Ashjian drew 1 to 5 percent of the vote in three of those polls, but he told Angle his internal polling shows him with nearly 20 percent. "I believe you can do some real harm, not to Harry Reid but to me," Angle tells Ashjian on audio posted by Ralston
. "I'm not sure you can win and I'm not sure I can win if you're hurting my chance, and that's the part that scares me."
The recording was made at a meeting last Wednesday among Angle, Ashjian and Sid James , the chairman of the Tea Party of Nevada, at the home of Richard Ziser, Ralston reported. Ashjian's voice is the loudest and clearest, suggesting he made the recording -- a fact he confirmed to CNN
. It reveals Angle trying to beat back Ashjian's claims that she is an establishment candidate as she and Ziser assure him that he'll have access to policymakers and accomplish more for the Tea Party if he drops out to help her win.
Powered by a major infusion of cash and support from the California-based Tea Party Express, Angle won the GOP primary over Sue Lowden, the candidate favored by national party leaders. She tells Ashjian that no one was more shocked than those leaders when she won -- that they were "moaning and groaning and weeping and gnashing teeth" over Lowden's loss. "The machine in the Republican Party is fighting against me," she adds. "They have never really gone along with lower taxes and less government."
Angle, who has hammered Reid for cutting deals in Washington, goes on to say that the Tea Party movement gives her "juice," or clout, and offers to share it with Ashjian. "That's really all I can offer you, is whatever juice I have, you have as well," she says. "You want to see DeMint, I have juice with him....I go to Washington, D.C. and want to see Jim DeMint, he's right there for me. I want to see Tom Coburn, he's right there for me. I want to see Mitch McConnell, he's there."
Trying to make common cause with Ashjian, Angle tells him the two of them have tapped into Americans' anger at politics as usual and the only difference between them is that "I was pragmatic enough to know ... that third parties can't get traction .... so I said all right, I'll work with it. Just show me what the rules are and I'll work with it."
Angle tells Ashjian that national Republicans don't want her in Washington because "they know I'll shake this mess up." She adds, "I shook it up in Carson City, they hated me there." She further adds that "there may be five or six of us" new senators to shake things up, and mentions Joe Miller of Alaska, Ken Buck of Colorado and Christine O'Donnell of Delaware. "She doesn't have a chance," Ashjian says of O'Donnell. Angle replies, "Well, I think she's real." She adds, referring to the GOP nominee in Florida, "I think that possibly Marco Rubio is real. That's a stretch for me."
The Reid campaign said Angle had "engaged in an act of supreme hypocrisy ... attempting to cut a deal with Ashjian to get him off the ballot, and openly trashing the very same national Republicans that are supporting her candidacy."
Asked for a response to the audio, particularly the part about her "juice" in Washington, Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen e-mailed that "Sharron expressed what many working families in Nevada and across the country are feeling. They are angry with Harry Reid, they are angry with Washington D.C., and they want blunt , plain-spoken leaders who are willing to shake things up. Sharron represents the interests of Nevada, not the interests of Washington D.C. like Harry Reid does, and that's why she is going to win."
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