Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2014

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The makeover of Sharron Angle for the general crowd

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Cathleen Allison

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle answers media questions Wednesday at a Washoe Republican Women’s Club luncheon in Reno.

Changing the language

Sharron Angle routinely speaks on issues such as Social Security and whether a senator’s role involves creating jobs using different ideas and phrasing than she has in the past. “It’s not really a change ... a change in language perhaps, but not a change in direction,” she said Wednesday.

Reid response

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign released a statement criticizing Angle’s “handlers” for trying “to rewrite history.” Her campaign efforts “involve politically expedient lies about Angle’s ironclad commitment to kill Social Security, and a general refusal to address the bevy of radical statements Angle made in the Republican primary before they arrived.”

Sun Coverage

In the span of a year, Nevada voters have encountered three different Sharron Angles.

First came Primary Campaign Angle, who, trying to distinguish herself from a crowded Republican U.S. Senate field, talked to anyone, anywhere and was unafraid to declare her deeply conservative philosophy.

Then she won the primary and voters met Down-in-the-Bunker Angle, who fled reporters and hunkered down to raise money.

Now emerges Prime Time Angle. Bolstered by a professional communications staff, she is once again sparring with groups of reporters and granting lengthy sit-down interviews to “mainstream” news outlets such as The New York Times. But the latest edition, while more polished, appears to be missing some of her previous fire, if her speech Wednesday before the Washoe County Republican Women’s Club is any indication.

Angle, who has had an intense travel schedule allowing little rest, struck a rather subdued tone. She walked slowly to the mic, stepped out from behind the podium, as is her style, and flatly delivered her opening line: “I am running for your seat for U.S. Senate, and I want your vote.”

A single clap from an enthusiastic audience member followed. This was a sit-down luncheon, not a boisterous campaign rally.

Still, the contrast between the excited primary candidate ready for a scrappy battle and the general-election candidate with a more choreographed message was apparent.

Angle focused on her new message: Her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is bad for the economy, bad for jobs, bad for home values. (That line earned one of the loudest rounds of applause.) She said she starts her conversations with her two adult children by asking whether they still have jobs and can afford their house payments.

Her short speech repeatedly invoked the memory of Ronald Reagan and laid out a three-point plan for cutting government spending: fully funding constitutionally protected services such as border security, returning secondary services such as education to the states and eliminating services the federal government shouldn’t be involved with anyway.

Afterward, she took questions. But instead of allowing audience members to question her directly — as Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., did before her — Angle read questions off cards.

Her staff said that was to make the process more efficient. Regardless, it was another stark contrast with her primary campaign style of fielding a variety of questions from crowds.

Angle relies on some of the one-liners that dotted her preprimary stump speech: “We need to pay back, cut back and take back,” for example. But her rhetoric has lost some of the battle-ready lines.

Instead of calling for the elimination of departments she sees as running up the federal debt and burdening businesses with regulation and taxes, Angle now merely wants to trim the budgets of the Education and Energy departments and Environmental Protection Agency.

Although Angle previously said she wants to eliminate Social Security for new generations of workers, she now says younger workers should be given the option of the traditional program or personal, government-run retirement accounts.

Instead of declaring that it’s not her job as a U.S. senator to create jobs, she carefully delivered her new line: “That’s what our job is: to build a climate of less government regulation and lower taxes so that those who do create jobs can get out there and create those jobs.”

She then pivots to attack Reid: “If he thinks as a senator he’s creating jobs, then why are we at 14.2 percent unemployment?”

After the speech, Angle met with reporters for five minutes, one of several occasions in which she has engaged the media in recent days. During the brief back and forth, she denied that she has changed her position on Social Security, saying she’s simply changed her “language” because her previous statements have been “distorted” by Reid.

“It’s really not a change ... a change in language perhaps, but not a change in direction,” she said.

Reid’s campaign responded, saying in a statement: “Sharron Angle’s new D.C. handlers have attempted for weeks now to re-create an extreme candidate whose dangerous agenda for Nevada had been unwavering for more than two decades. Her handlers’ latest futile attempts to rewrite history involve politically expedient lies about Angle’s ironclad commitment to kill Social Security, and a general refusal to address the bevy of radical statements Angle made in the Republican primary before they arrived.”

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