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September 30, 2014

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jon ralston:

The voters’ blinding hatred of Harry Reid

Sharron Angle is dead, one in an occasional series.

The question cannot be ignored considering all that has happened since the primary: If Sharron Angle truly is as cuckoo as Harry Reid says she is and as her own words occasionally indicate, why isn’t the Senate majority leader, arguably the most powerful Nevadan in history, running away from her in the polls?

Although it’s possible Reid may continue to gain ground on Angle — he has gone from being down double digits to having slight leads in most surveys — the inexorable number in nearly every poll is the one that shows about half of the electorate disapproves of Reid. With 10 weeks until early voting begins, and with Reid hoarding enough money to unload all of the ammunition Angle has provided, it has become clear that either the majority leader can’t beat anyone this year or the GOP nominee is the only person he can survive.

At first glance, the prospect is startling: The most powerful man in Nevada, who controls the Democratic Party and is as canny as they come, could lose to a backbencher assemblywoman, who has no help from the party, who is on a mission from God, who thinks entitlements are extra-constitutional and who doesn’t think gays should adopt. I could go on with positions she has espoused, despite any current rhetorical mellowing, that generally are seen as out of the mainstream. But no need.

It’s almost preposterous, right? Sharron Angle defeating Harry Reid? Come on.

But here’s the rub: People hate Reid. I tell my daughter never to use that verb, but it’s the only word for it. It seethes, blinds, sputters.

I am asked all the time for the provenance of such animus. I still believe it is a combination: Anger at the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda that folks blame for their economic lot, Reid’s four decades in politics, his general mien and, of course, his intemperate remarks (war is lost, taxes are voluntary, tourists smell).

But it is profoundly irrational, too, much of the time, and thus impossible to change with a “She’s from Crazytown” campaign. And that’s what keeps the Reid folks up at night, knowing no matter how skillful they are — and he has the best campaign team Nevada has seen — the Reid-haters will not listen. They may be able to scare a small percentage to stay home or vote for “none of these candidates” — and that may be enough — but Team Reid can’t be sure, no matter what the next Angle revelation is.

Angle benefits not just from her own social conservative base (thank you, God) but also from the core of Reid-haters she inherited after the primary. Is it enough to get her to the 43 percent to 47 percent needed to win this race? Perhaps.

Further illustration: For months I began columns with “Harry Reid is dead …” and no one, even the Reid folks, complained. Not a peep. Now, with similar wryness, I start with the demise of Angle, who clearly has plummeted, and the vituperation is screeching.

Two recent favorites, via e-mail:

• “I never realized you were such a $@&* left-wing commie. I have lost all respect for you, and I mean that with all due respect.”

• “Are you going to take back that Angle is ‘dead’ now that Harry’s lead is gone? I have come across some lowlife’s (sic) but you are something special. You must not only hate anyone who challenges the establishment, but you appear to have a problem with women.”

What does this tell you about selective perception and the Reidhate out there? Only answer that matters: It tells you why Angle can still win.

Angle’s conflation of God and government could be enough on its own, despite the video catalog of her other greatest hits Reid possesses, to sway enough independent-minded voters to cost her the election. Even people of faith are squeamish about being asked to vote for someone who says God wanted her to run or that the Almighty is offended by Social Security, Medicare and health care reform. It’s a bit much, even for the devout.

Angle will continue to say “Obamacare, bailouts and Harry Reid” as an incantation designed to make her own words and deeds disappear from voters’ minds. But Reid’s own sleight of hand campaign — don’t look at the economy, just remember she’s nuts! — might reach critical mass, if it hasn’t already.

Sharron Angle may indeed be dead, and we don’t realize it yet. If so, not even God can save her.

And how ironic it would be after she brought Christianity into the race if Angle had helped to resurrect Harry Reid.

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