When an even vaguely prominent national political figure sets foot in Iowa, the question is inevitably asked: Are you interested in running for president? Sharron Angle, in the Hawkeye State to attend the premiere of “The Genesis Code,” a Christian movie featuring Fred Thompson, got it on Wednesday and her response prompted this Des Moines Register headline: “Sharron Angle comes to Iowa, doesn’t rule out presidential bid.”
“I’ll just say I have lots of options for the future, and I’m investigating all my options,” she told the paper.
What to make of this? Probably not much. Thanks to cable news and the blogosphere, it’s easier than ever for someone like Angle to earn a national following among Republicans. But just because they are familiar with her name and sympathetic to her politics doesn’t mean that Republican primary voters — even those who most strongly identify with the Tea Party movement that fueled Angle’s Nevada Senate campaign last year — will be eager to make her their presidential nominee. The fact remains that Angle’s essential claim to fame now is that her nomination enabled the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate to survive an election he had no business winning. Otherwise, her political resume consists only of a failed primary campaign for Congress and a few terms in the Nevada state legislature. Policy-wise, there’s almost nothing that Republican primary voters would get with Angle that they won’t be able to get with most of the other candidates who end up running in ’12. And stature-wise, those other candidates would dwarf Angle.
For obvious reasons, there aren’t many examples of candidates parlaying high-profile but losing statewide campaigns into presidential efforts. John Silber, the volcanic Boston University president, narrowly lost the 1990 Massachusetts governor’s race to Bill Weld, then flirted with running as a conservative Democrat in the 1992 presidential primaries (but ultimately declined to do so). And after his three-point loss to Charles Robb in 1994 (in a campaign with remarkable parallels to last year’s Angle-Reid contest), Oliver North’s fans briefly tried to persuade him to run for president in 1996, but he didn’t bite. There’s also, for what it’s worth, David Duke, who was trounced by Edwin Edwards in Louisiana’s November 1991 gubernatorial runoff and who then ran in the 1992 GOP presidential primaries. And I suppose Al Sharpton, who had waged losing campaigns for the Senate and for mayor of New York before seeking the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, belongs in this group, along with Alan Keyes, who lost a 1992 Senate race to Barbara Mikulski before running for the 1996 GOP nod. Otherwise, I can’t think of any other modern White House candidates with a background similar to Angle’s.
Almost certainly, she won’t end up running. But she may not be done flirting with a campaign yet. At the end of Wednesday night’s screening, she asked the audience to invite her back to the state.