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August 4, 2015

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jon ralston:

Internal disarray didn’t do Angle any favors in her campaign

Sharron Angle, the Energizer Bunny of Nevada politics, was out and about last week in Las Vegas, leading to the conclusion that she will keep running and running and running.

“I have a lot of options,” Angle told a Republican group while committing to nothing, according to a report from Nevada News Bureau chief Elizabeth Crum. “I am looking at these options. I can’t stop.”

Indeed, the almost-congresswoman (2006), almost-state senator (2008) and almost-U.S. senator (2010) appears to have unlimited battery life, even if she continues to fall short. Three strikes and you’re out? Nope. Just give her another at-bat in another year.

But before we start talking about the Angle boomlet against Sen. John Ensign or for Rep. Dean Heller’s seat should the congressman seek to depose the junior senator, and before we entomb this year’s Angle-Harry Reid race for eternity, let’s not forget one little item that has not yet been fully exposed: The GOP nominee’s campaign was as dysfunctional as a major effort can get, driving the National Republican Senatorial Committee to increase its alcohol budget and resulting in some of the nastiest internecine warfare in memory.

In post-election interviews, and through some internal Angle campaign e-mail I have obtained, it was clear that by midsummer, after absorbing that bruising pummeling by the Reid ads, the Angle campaign was split into two warring camps, with D.C. pros Jordan Gehrke and Jarrod Agen against the locals. And if you think the Reidhate this cycle was intense, the heat inside Team Angle was nearly as white hot.

I detailed for you last weekend just how well-oiled the Reid machine was and how prepared the senator was for the GOP onslaught. But Angle’s liabilities as a candidate — and she will have to overcome soaring negatives to run for anything in 2012 — were exacerbated by her team’s disarray.

By summer’s end, the campaign was working relatively well, with outside forces that would spend $10 million on her behalf helping. But the damage done by Team Reid in June and July could not be undone, and the lack of attention to any field operation would prove fatal. By the time the D.C. paratroopers had taken control (relatively speaking), it was too late.

Some of the stuff seems fictional: A proposal to invest in skywriting to help the campaign — “Dirty Harry” in the contrail? Or an idea for a final ad, starting the Monday before the election (!), that would feature Angle explaining how she was going to fix Social Security — save it, personalize it, privatize it?

“It was insane on a daily basis,” one insider with knowledge of the campaign said bluntly.

Another insider told me: “There was a power-struggle within the campaign: the old dogs, so to speak, and these younger guys coming from Washington. The younger guys thought the old dogs had nothing left in them and the older guys thought the younger guys were arrogant know-it-alls. (They were probably both correct).”

And consider this priceless snippet from Chuck Kozak, who was in the GOP primary against Angle but dropped out and was, for a time, her finance director, suggesting in late July a way to “kneecap” Reid’s ads:

“When Reid comes on with an ad like I saw today with an iron worker bitching about Sharron saying its (sic) not her responsiblity (sic) to create jobs — we have Sharron come on FB Twitter or whatever and say something like — ‘Well I see Harry got one of his union bosses to go on T.V. and complain about a remark I made about my efforts to create an environment where legitimate, well paying jobs could be created in Nevada. What he failed to mention is that 30 ironworkers have requested a meeting with me because they realize that the only people getting jobs in the construction industry are the union bosses — Harry’s buddies’ ... These ads cost around $500,000 apiece. If we cripple the message and turn it around immediately, even deep pockets Harry will start to feel the pain. It costs us next to nothing. This is war, like Sharron says. Remember how the Russians lost in Afganistan (sic)? A 10,000 stinger started bringing down mult-million (sic) dollar aircraft and all on board!”

You get the picture, and it should have been painted by Dali. This was dysfunction piled on dysfunction — it’s a miracle, or perhaps a testament to that Reidhate, that Angle came as close as she did.

And even though Angle’s public appearance last week indicates she has her sights set on 2012, unless she can find a way to reduce those negatives and find a campaign team that knows what it is doing, the Energizer Bunny will be rabbit stew again.

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