Las Vegas Sun

June 21, 2021

Currently: 98° — Complete forecast

Wondering which candidate can sink the farthest

Harry Reid is alive, one in an occasional series:

Glad the suspense is over. For a while it looked as if the Senate majority leader, who is about as popular in Nevada as a sports betting ban, might have to face that telegenic former anchorwoman with the deep pockets and Establishment connections. But now Reid confronts an opponent who is some out-of-the-mainstream loon who wants to make Scientology the national religion, mandate that Colgate take the fluoride out of its toothpaste and reinvigorate the economy by creating a new market for bootleggers.

At least I think that’s what I have been reading about Sharron Angle. She’s dangerous and frightening. So this race is all but over, the national Republicans will focus their energies elsewhere, and Reid can just spend the summer and fall telling Nevadans how “no one can do more.”

Except …

Except I keep forgetting just how unpopular Reid is here. He continues to hover around 40 percent approval (on a good day) and he will need at least 45 percent or more to win. I’m not sure that Rasmussen poll taken right after Angle’s victory is right — that showed 50-39. But Reid probably is behind and the Republicans will try to make this election a referendum on him so that anybody (even their accidental nominee) could defeat him.

I also know everybody is talking about Angle’s “wacky” positions, as the Reidites call them. But the incumbent is prone to bouts of wackiness himself, from his declaring a war to be lost to his turning his nose away from smelly Capitol tourists to his analyzing the blackness of the president’s dialect. If this race is going to be a battle of gaffes, I’m not sure Reid is the favorite to win — or lose, that is.

Of course, the national Republicans clearly are worried about Angle finding her way back to the middle. She doesn’t have a political road map with a middle on it. It’s right and far right — and Angle is unapologetic about her beliefs, so charting a new campaign cartography will be a challenge.

You can just imagine the conversation between Angle and National Republican Senatorial Committee boss John Cornyn after she won: “Congratulations, Sue. Oh, I mean Sharron. Listen, I’m sending some guys out there to get you to a safe house for a few days. No media interviews except with conservative talk-radio people, and I even hear that Manders guy in Reno is saying you’re too far right. And we’re taking over your website so there’s no more weird stuff. The indoctrination sessions start right away.”

Angle, though, is unlikely to submit to an extreme makeover. This isn’t like molding soft clay; it’s like shaping hardened concrete. And that’s just the way Team Reid likes it.

Except …

People are angry. And most of them don’t know much about Angle except that she’s not Harry Reid — for many, that’s enough. The Anybody But Reid contingent is large in this state, so even though the majority leader is going to try to introduce Angle to the broader electorate, he is not suddenly going to become more popular.

Of course he will have some help in marginalizing Angle, including from some high-profile Republicans.

Can you imagine folks up in Reno hearing a knock and opening their doors to find the co-presidents of Good Old Boys Inc., Northern Nevada chapter, the Grand Old Men of Reno wearing their Harry Reid T-shirts and urging a vote for the majority leader. Can you conjure the image of Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and state Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio campaigning for Reid?

That could really hurt the GOP nominee.

Except …

Except there is something genuine about Angle and the contrast with Reid will not be helpful to him. And I am not sure which is the more difficult needle to thread: Getting Sharron Angle to pose as something other than she is after all these years of being on the far right, or pretending the man who lives in the Ritz-Carlton in D.C. is not the consummate Washington insider.

Still, the skittishness among Republicans is palpable, from Cornyn to Karl Rove, whose Senate analysis now gives an edge to Reid. They wanted Sue Lowden before she imploded and now they are stuck with someone none of them know and a person they are probably frightened to get acquainted with. (“She did what?”)

Yes, Reid looks pretty good now. He has a formidable war room, the candidate he wanted and a mother lode of opposition research to mine.

Except …

Except it’s only June. In five months, with these two candidates, the best (or worst) and unexpected are yet to come.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy