To win in November, Harry Reid must go after Angle now

The Senate majority leader could put his opponent away in the next week -- if he plays it smart

Topics: 2010 Elections, Harry Reid, Sharron Angle,

To win in November, Harry Reid must go after Angle nowSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and GOP candidate Sharron Angle

The next week may be the most important one in Sen. Harry Reid’s political life. If Reid and his campaign can duplicate the brilliant success they had in influencing the outcome of Nevada’s GOP primary, the embattled majority leader might pull off a victory that seemed nearly impossible a month ago.

What he does in the coming weeks will go a long way toward determining if that happens.

In Tuesday’s GOP primary, Republicans nominated Sharron Angle, a former state assemblywoman who can be fairly characterized as a fringe candidate with a history of electoral failure. Angle rose from the basement in polls to a commanding lead in the final weeks with grass-roots and financial backing from conservative groups and an epic collapse by the original front-runner, Sue Lowden.

But Angle’s rise was boosted significantly by the work of Reid, whose surrogates pledged to “vaporize” Lowden’s candidacy and then did just that, using television ads and free media to draw attention to her suggestion that Americans try to barter for their healthcare. This cost Lowden her credibility and made her vulnerable to Angle.

Reid’s campaign understood that Lowden, with a thin record, would have been a very difficult opponent to vanquish. Reid’s own electoral flaws this year are obvious: Nevada voters have grown tired of him (he was first elected to office in 1970), and his approval ratings are stuck well under 50 percent. His only chance at victory in the fall, it was clear early on, would come through burning the opposition to the ground.

With her “chickens for check-ups” blunder in April, Lowden gave Reid and his allies an opening, which they seized with a barrage of attacks from “independent” groups — groups that Reid didn’t officially control but that clearly had his best interests in mind. (Patriot Majority, for instance, an outside group that aired anti-Lowden ads, is run by an ex-Reid staffer.)

The effort paid off last night, as Republicans nominated Angle — their least electable choice and a candidate whom Reid might actually be able to defeat.

An enthusiastic, almost gleeful extremist, Angle supports dismantling the Social Security system, abolishing the federal income tax, and shuttering the Departments of Education and Energy. She has spoken in support of alcohol prohibition and has even proposed prison reform ideas propagated by the Church of Scientology. And she’s had trouble at the polls before. Yes, she won three terms in the Nevada Assembly — where she was repeatedly voted the state’s worst legislator by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But Angle has also lost two bids for higher office, both in primaries: for the U.S. House in 2006 and the state Senate in 2008.

You Might Also Like

 In early general election polls, Reid remains tied with Angle and seemingly stuck at 40 percent. But he has around $10 million in the bank, while Angle emerges from her primary with virtually nothing. This means that while Angle reloads — and rest assured, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Club for Growth, and an armada of Tea Party groups and GOP donors will pour money into the state on her behalf — Reid can define her to the electorate.

Reid’s imperative is crystal clear. The strategy that helped him “win” the Republican primary is the same one — the only one — that will win him the general: He must go up on the air immediately and trample Angle with ads highlighting her out-of-the-mainstream views.

Reid could start with areas in which Nevadans are generally united. Angle’s support for storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain does not jibe with the vast majority of Nevadans who oppose it, and this would provide Reid with an excellent contrast, given his work in preventing waste dumping. He could then pivot to Angle’s views on Social Security and education. These commercials could provide voters their first picture of Angle’s plainly radical viewpoints.

Next, Reid could turn to undermining Angle’s basic credibility, just as he did with Lowden, by discussing her abysmal Assembly record. The title “worst legislator in the state” seems tailor-made for a 30-second ad, and Reid might even get Reno’s Republican mayor, Bob Cashell, in an advertisement, since Cashell promised to back Reid if Angle won the GOP nod.

Finally, Reid could focus on the crazy — Angle’s stance on alcohol, her ties to Scientology, and her long stream of inflammatory statements, from foreign affairs to the federal government, hammering home the idea that Angle simply doesn’t fit with what is a swing state.

Defining an opponent early matters. Just ask Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who entered the Florida Senate race last year with an enormous financial advantage over his conservative opponent, Marco Rubio. But rather than use his overwhelming fundraising to smother Rubio’s candidacy in the cradle, Crist sat on his hands, allowing Rubio to build a beachhead and ultimately move so far ahead that Crist abandoned the GOP entirely.

If Reid is smart, he’ll strike now. Given Angle’s past election showings, and the fact that she has no money and a threadbare campaign organization now, she might not respond well to a quick assault and could crumple under the pressure.

Harry Reid did exactly what he needed to do in the Republican primary. He should be even more aggressive in the general. It might be his only chance at another term.

Mark Greenbaum is a freelance writer in Washington.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>