Sunday, March 20, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Sharron Angle’s failure to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blemished her political future among many Republicans.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
And if Angle learned any lessons in the high profile 2010 Senate race, she’ll be coming into the 2nd Congressional District race all the more formidable.
“Clearly she must have learned something from that Senate race, and I think she is going to be a stronger candidate because of it,” said conservative operative Chuck Muth, who has not supported Angle in the past.
Internal polling shows many Republicans blame her for letting the Republican Party’s top target escape — a lingering attitude that could weaken her in an expected GOP primary for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., next year.
But what a difference an election can make.
Her sudden jump into national politics, after running a series of much smaller campaigns, nonetheless played out from her kitchen table with a small staff of close-knit, longtime advisers. And the growing pains in Angle’s Senate campaign were evident almost immediately after she won the primary, with rifts opening between her Nevada loyalists and Washington talent sent in from the national party.
The best indication that her experience has made her a more strategic thinker? Her decision on which race to enter.
Instead of battling Heller for U.S. Senate, she is content to succeed him in Nevada’s safest Republican district, where she is a known commodity and retains a devoted base of support.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Angle won’t be keeping her campaign manager, Terry Campbell, a little-known Angle loyalist who was widely panned after her loss as a poor decision maker and adviser.
Angle also comes with a potentially powerful fundraising list. She raised more than $20 million, an astounding figure for a little-known candidate.
To the extent that list is full of conservative purists who want to see the fiscal and social conservative agenda pushed in Congress, Angle could tap it in 2012. But it’s not 2010 anymore, when she was running against the second-most-powerful Democrat in the country, and the media was hyping Tea Party candidates such as Angle.
“The bigger question is will she be able to raise the same kind of money,” Republican strategist Greg Ferraro said. “I would tend to doubt it. A lot of that money came because she was running against Harry Reid.”
Angle could have difficulty raising money for a primary campaign. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei and state Sen. Greg Brower are all considering a run.
The other factor not playing in her favor is the lack of national attention on the race.
Challenging Reid in 2010 provided her exposure and money. Even in defeat, she maintained some momentum by traveling to early presidential primary states for the opening of the Christian film the “Genesis Code.”
But other than the splash her decision made in the national press last week, few expect her run in a Republican congressional district to generate any sustained interest.
“She won’t get anywhere near the publicity unless she does some really outrageous stuff,” said Jonathan Krasno, a political science professor at Binghamton University in New York. “Which is not out of the question.”
But this time, one might expect that she’ll also be smarter.