There's only one person happier than Sharron Angle after tonight's Republican Senate primary in Nevada -- and that's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. According to the AP, GOP voters chose Angle, a tea party favorite and an ultra-conservative, to face Reid in November after a rollicking primary that saw her defeat longtime frontrunner Sue Lowden and Nevada celebrity Danny Tarkanian.
With 59% of the precints reporting, Angle has 39% of the vote in the primary, handing her the GOP nomination in the crowded field of 12 candidates.
That means that Reid is now facing the candidate that his campaign probably preferred most among the top three vote-getters. Democrats say Angle is extreme and will alienate moderate voters once the fall campaign begins in earnest. But her win tonight proves that Angle could be formidable. She has the national support of the Tea Party Express in the race that tea partiers most want to win this year. That means Angle can count on instant access to millions in grassroots donations and likely thousands of tea partiers across the country ready to work to help her win.
Angle's surge to the nomination was almost as spectacular as Lowden's fall from grace. The former state GOP chair, Lowden was cruising in the polls until she decided to advocate for a return to the barter system to pay for health care.
Meanwhile, Tarkanian -- son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian -- struggled in the polls throughout the race. Tarkanian had a tea party backing of his own, enjoying the endorsement of the Tea Party Nation group. But that didn't materialize into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising Angle's supporters put on the air for her.
Angle is more than just a tea party surrogate, of course. She barely lost a 2006 GOP primary for Congress, running on many of the same positions she's running on now.
As for Reid, polls show him tied with Angle for now. The TPM Poll Average for the general election fight shows Angle ahead by a slim margin of 43.0-41.3.