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September 1, 2014

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Jon Ralston on the trap Sharron Angle faces if she steps too far back

Sharron Angle Clears the Air

Sharron Angle Clears the Air, Seg. 2

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I am not sure who that was I interviewed on “Face to Face” Tuesday evening, but it was not Sharron Angle.

At least not the Sharron Angle who existed before she was catapulted from relatively unknown former assemblywoman to perhaps the most famous Republican Senate nominee in the country (sorry, Rand Paul.)

This is a new, different Sharron Angle, one who actually says words you never thought she would say, such as: That she had gone too far.

Sharron Angle went too far? Next up in this race: Harry Reid says he wants to debate Angle every week on “Face to Face.”

It appears, though, that Angle, coincidentally after the national GOP paratroopers landed in her living room campaign, has decided that perhaps she has gone too far: Too far to the right for her new D.C. spinmeisters, too far to privatization for seniors now scared (thanks, Harry Reid, and liberal media), too far to arming the populace to “take out” Harry Reid, too far to win the most important Senate race in the country, one that will change the course of state and national history (is that too far?).

Angle clearly had been fed some scripted stuff – I can almost hear the conversations: “Sharron, get to know Paul Ryan’s oeuvre on entitlements” and “Get the debate challenge to Harry in there.”

So be it. She is no different than many unpolished political commodities before her who have been put into the hands of sophisticated image makers. I am sure Reidites wish their guy could be more scripted when he is in public forums.

But Tuesday night exposed the real danger for the new Sharron Angle. If she tries to be too different from the old Sharron Angle, she loses what many have liked about her and what they see as such a contrast with the Senate majority leader: She is so real, so sincere, so honest.

Thus the dilemma for the Angle campaign apparently has been solved: Better to be the softer, fuzzier Sharron Angle than the hard-edged, senior-scaring Sharron Angle.

For instance, no longer does she simply say privatize Social Security, or even just “personalize” it. She spent some time Tuesday evening trying to reassure seniors that she wasn’t out to take away their benefits. In fact, after saying for months there was no government role, she said there would be one for current beneficiaries.

What her handlers know is that this issue and a few others threaten to take the focus off what could still win the race for them: Reid.

The GOP nominee did not retreat from some positions, but there also was an intellectual incoherence difficult to resolve for the new or old Angle. For instance, she would have voted against extending unemployment checks because of a “spoiled citizenry” that is “afraid to go out and get a job” because of apparently cushy jobless benefits, so they should have their benefits cut to provide an incentive to get a job (even though there aren’t any) and only partially reinstated if they get a job to supplement their income.

That’s what she said – it’s online if you don’t believe me.

This, frankly, I cannot figure out. Nor could I fathom her insistence that separation of church and state is not in the Constitution – in 1995, she had told a legislative committee it was unconstitutional. That, too, was bizarre.

In some ways I admire the purity of her position on abortion – no exceptions, it’s life or it’s not. But that will be a difficult one, even for her new pros from back East, especially because their charge seems to be to dilute some of her purity.

So if Angle is indeed dealing with her new schizophrenia, making her a prime target, why won’t Reid debate her? My guess is he will, but only under the most favorable circumstances.

I know his people are worried that every time he opens his mouth, a war might be lost or a tourist might stink or a president might be a loser or, even worse, sound like a Negro. But he is the Senate majority leader, and glib or not, rhetorical odysseys or not, unpopular policies or not, he should share the stage with her once a month from now until November.

As Angle left the set, she looked back at me, mentioned debates again and lamented with her good-natured smile, “Reid will probably use some clips from your show in his next commercials.”

I think she’s right.

But commercials are easy, senator. I wonder if you’re willing to sit down with the new Sharron Angle. That would be something I’d love to see.

Jon Ralston’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Ralston can be reached at 870-7997 or at [email protected].

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