Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 | 2 a.m.
On Friday night, Sharron Angle made her first public appearance on behalf of Rick Santorum since endorsing him for president, headlining a solo rally at Santorum’s headquarters.
Twenty-eight people showed up, including Angle's handlers, Santorum’s local staff, and one attendee’s two kids.
Stepping up to a microphone and smiling, Angle tried to make the best of an obviously bad situation.
“What it’s going to take for us to turn this country around is to be committed. And we’re in it for the long haul,” she said. “You have been inspired ... There’s no reason to give up.”
It is difficult to determine for whom this small display of support on the eve of a caucus would have been more disappointing: Santorum, whose expectations for Nevada were so low that he essentially abandoned his campaign here after initial campaign stops Tuesday drew modest crowds, or Angle, the Tea Party’s once-great hope — this is the first large-scale endorsement she’s made since challenging Harry Reid in 2010.
“People should take more of an interest ... they’ve gotten complacent and lazy,” said Bernie Dottero, one of the few Santorum faithful to turn out. When asked whether she thought Angle’s endorsement helps Santorum, she said simply: “No.”
That Angle’s endorsement might not help Santorum in Nevada doesn’t come as a total surprise: Even her closest friends said earlier this week that “even if (Santorum) doesn’t win Nevada, Sharron’s endorsement will help nationwide.”
Angle is anticipating making appearances for Santorum in other states. But Nevada’s disinterest is the surest sign yet that the Tea Party cult of Angle that made her an object of national fascination has waned — and so too has her influence.
“I don’t think there’s a power of endorsement. You know an endorsement is just an opinion,” she told the Sun afterward. “People are not going to be relying on what Sharron Angle thinks about who they should vote for ... it’s just my opinion and I put it out there for what it’s worth.”
But this is likely the first of many opinions Angle will be putting out there over the next few months.
“I’m fairly careful about how I express my opinion and I have to be fairly certain that the person I back in a very public way is going to not disappoint,” she cautioned, but added that her plans for the coming election season were to “complete what I started in 2010: And that is to make sure the leadership in the U.S. Senate changes.
“So I will be looking very closely at senatorial races that are going to change the makeup of the U.S. Senate. I already was looking at Nebraska and without one shot fired we have turned that from blue to red, so we can now move onto the next one.”
Would that next one be Nevada’s contest between Rep. Shelley Berkley, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Sen. Dean Heller, the Republican who was appointed to fill the seat when John Ensign resigned, perhaps?
“I haven’t talked to Dean about that,” Angle said. “Whenever you express your opinion, you need to have a conversation first, and make sure that’s something that’s jointly agreeable.”
But — drumroll please — Angle hasn’t ruled out running for office this year.
“I have to tell you that my options are open. I haven’t ruled out anything. There’s still time,” she told the Sun. “That’s why I gave the pep talk: there’s still time for people to get into the races ... and if you were even casually thinking about a school board position now’s the time to jump in and offer yourself for service.”
School board? Why is Angle talking about the school board — it’s where her political career started, but surely after challenging the most powerful senator in the country she would be considering higher office for herself. Right?
“You know, well, now if you listened to my whole speech, I wanted to make it very clear that I feel those are probably the more important positions that people can fill because they are so close to the people and to what affects their lives,” Angle said, when the Sun asked her to clarify that she didn’t mean herself when she spoke of running for the school board.
“It’s who is making the regulations concerning your street that actually impact you. The impacts from Washington have a trickle-down effect, but if the guy on the city council says we’re zoning you now commercial and there’s going to be a business now next door to you, it affects you right where you’re living,” she continued. “And to me, that man or that woman is more important to you and your life, quality of life than someone probably in Washington, D.C.”
Sounds like a subtle hint. But Angle is always full of surprises.