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September 23, 2014

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Sharron Angle’s angle: Keep the spotlight on Harry Reid

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Leila Navidi

Sharron Angle celebrates her victory in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate during the Primary 2010 Victory Unity Celebration with the Clark County Republican Party at the Orleans Hotel Tuesday, June 8, 2010.

Republican 2010 Primary Victory Unity Celebration

Sharron Angle celebrates her victory in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate during the Primary 2010 Victory Unity Celebration with the Clark County Republican Party at the Orleans Hotel Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Angle Wins US Senate GOP Primary

Sharron Angle wins the U.S. Senate Republican primary.

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Bill Raggio

Bill Raggio

Gansert

Gansert

While on the stump, Sharron Angle has often used the catchphrase: “Don’t read my lips, read my record.”

Visitors to her website Wednesday — a day after the former assemblywoman won the Republican U.S. Senate primary in a landslide — would have found that to be an impossible task.

Gone were any references to policy positions, including her plan to end Social Security and Medicare. All that remained was a photo and “donate” button accompanied by the brief message: “Let’s keep the momentum going! Your donation will help us beat Harry Reid in November.”

Angle has retrenched for a general election fight that she hopes to make a referendum on Reid’s record — not hers.

“This race has always been about Harry Reid. It continues to be about Harry Reid,” Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy said.

Reid and his allies, meanwhile, sought to immediately create the impression that Angle is generally out of touch with mainstream political views. An onslaught of news releases attacked her positions.

The Democrats’ aim is to lower voters’ opinions of her, paving a path to victory for Reid, whose own numbers are in the 30s.

Stacy said criticisms of Angle’s positions on popular social programs are “chaff being thrown up to try to distract from Harry Reid’s problems. He’s had several terms to try to fix Social Security and Medicare.”

Though it’s early, there were mixed signs on whether Angle — who rose from single digits in the polls to a victory over one-time front-runner Sue Lowden — could gather widespread support. National Republicans rallied around her. But some moderate Nevada Republicans backed away, questioning the soundness of her conservative stances and openly doubting her chances of beating Reid.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the Republican National Committee embraced Angle, pledging resources to help run an aggressive voter identification and turnout operation in the general election. Michael Steele, the group’s chairman, said the organization tasked with aiding Republican candidates would work with Angle’s camp to boost her threadbare campaign over the next 10 days.

“She will be more than ready and more than prepared,” he said.

Steele sidestepped a question about Angle’s vulnerability on issues such as Social Security and Medicare.

“In a primary or any political contest, people take what you do and say and throw it to one end of the spectrum or the other,” he said. “This whole idea that because she’s got a conservative perspective ... it’s not a pejorative term. It’s a good, fresh look at these issues. She’s going to bring a new freshness.”

Former Gov. Bob List, a Republican national committeeman, heaped on the praise: “She is a populist. She appeals to people from top to bottom. Keep your eye on her. She’s on fire.”

Still, Steele and List said Republicans would work aggressively to keep the focus on Reid, casting the campaign as a referendum on Reid while highlighting Nevada’s record unemployment and continuing foreclosure crisis.

But there’s a distinct uneasiness with Angle in Nevada GOP circles. She has often clashed with the party’s establishment and its more centrist wing on taxes and their compromises on policy proposals such as a property tax cap that she opposed on constitutional grounds.

Publicly, most of Nevada’s GOP establishment chose their words carefully.

At a Reno celebration of former federal Judge Brian Sandoval’s 2-to-1 defeat of incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons on Tuesday, several key Nevada GOP figures, including former Gov. Kenny Guinn and state Sen. Bill Raggio, grew sober when it became apparent Angle would defeat Lowden.

Guinn would only say: “If she wins, she’ll be the candidate. It’ll be a tough race for her.”

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said Wednesday, “It’s important that Sharron Angle reach out to the nonpartisans. It’s going to take more than just registered Republicans to win the U.S. Senate race.”

Raggio, whom Angle nearly defeated in 2008, said: “It’s doubtful Sharron Angle can garner the Democrat and independent support necessary to win against Harry Reid. Her views are extreme. Many good Republicans would find it hard to subscribe to those positions.”

Sig Rogich, the GOP Nevada operative and former presidential adviser who is co-chairman of “Republicans for Reid,” said he began receiving phone calls from establishment Republicans as the election results rolled in Tuesday. Although he declined to disclose their names, he said 13 Republicans, some of whom backed Angle’s rivals, wanted to join Reid’s campaign. Rogich said a list would be forthcoming.

“I’m very confident that we’ll have a lot of Republican support for Harry Reid,” he said. “I think we’re going to be able to expand this Republican group significantly. As active Republicans, it’s very difficult for them to support someone who wants to get rid of Social Security.”

Sandoval’s campaign offered a less-than-ringing endorsement. Spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner, said, “Of course Brian supports Sharron Angle.”

When asked if he planned to campaign with her, she said, “Regardless of who won the nomination, we’re running our own campaign. That said, will they be on the trail together? Of course.”

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