Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the prime electoral target for the tea party movement. At a press conference in Washington this morning, one group of tea partiers said they found the woman to defeat the head of the Senate Democrats this November in Nevada — ultra-conservative former state legislator Sharron Angle.
Angle was on hand this morning as the Tea Party Express announced its list of electoral targets. She took the mic near the end of the press conference to tout her campaign to a standing ovation from the tea partiers gathered in a ballroom at the National Press Club downtown.
Angle is just one of a slew of Republicans vying for the GOP Senate nomination, and polls show she’s not the frontrunner. So why did the tea partiers choose her to carry their flag in what they call the most important race in the country? Angle says she’s the most pure conservative in the bunch, and in our conversation after the speech she made it clear the tea party force is strong with her.“My record,” she said when reporters asked her why she got the endorsement. “The other people in this race, their record is spotty on conservative issues. I will not back down.”
On the issues, it would be hard for Angle to run farther from the right. In Washington today, she spoke often of the Smith & Wesson she carries when she’s not in D.C. and told one tea partier that she agreed this year’s Census form is “too intrusive.”
She promised to get rid of the “unconstitutional czars” in the executive branch.
“Our president can have friends,” she said, to laughter from the crowd, “but I don’t have to pay for them.”
Angle is a member of the “Oath Keepers,” the conservative group that advocates law enforcement and military types disobey orders they feel are unconstitutional. She touted her “Ronald Reagan Freedom Medallion” from the conservative Claremont Institute, and other right wing bona fides in conversations with reporters today.
When it comes to governing, Angle has no doubts about her priorities. She told the audience at the Tea Party Express press conference that her first legislative act as a Senator would be to call for the repeal of the health care reform bill, which she called “Obamacare.”
After the press conference, I asked her how far that opposition to the reform bill goes. Angle made no bones about it: she doesn’t support a single shred of the health care bill, including the banning of preexisting condition discrimination. Angle told me that the “free market” would eliminate the need for preexisting condition screening, as long as the government stopped mandating what kind of care insurance companies have to provide.
“Whenever the government makes a law [about health care] it just gums up the works and makes things worse,” she told me. “I don’t think the law is solution.”
That mantra is central to the way Angle views politics.
“I’m a free market person,” she told me. “The law doesn’t solve problems. Law is the problem.”
Angle faces former state GOP chair Sue Lowden and businessman Danny Tarkanian in the June 8 GOP primary, along with several other candidates seen by most observers as non-factors in the race. Polls have consistently shown her running third, with Lowden being the strongest frontrunner so far.
In a hypothetical general election race against Reid, Angle — like most everybody in Nevada these days — is beating the incumbent Democrat in polling. The TPM Poll Average for an Angle-Reid race shows Angle ahead 50.5-39.7.
(There’s also an official “tea party candidate” in the race, Scott Ashjian, but the movement has dismissed him completely.)
Despite the polling, Angle’s personal brand of arch-conservatism could cause problems in a general election fight. The Republican party is already worrying over how to handle health care reform in the general election, and there’s no doubt that Reid would love to run against someone who wanted to undo even the popular provisions in the landmark bill he helped usher through Congress.
Nevertheless, the Tea Party Express says that Angle has what it takes to win the primary and the general too. But she’s tried to run for national office before and come up short. In 2006, She came in second a three-way Republican congressional primary in Nevada’s massive 2nd District, an area covers almost the entire state excluding only Las Vegas. It’s pretty reliably Republican and Angle got close — within 1000 votes — but she wasn’t able to close the deal.
Angle said that this time around, Republicans in Nevada are ready for her brand of right-wing politics. It seems the tea party movement agrees, at least according to the statement from Tea Party Express political director Bryan Shroyer this morning.
“It a time when politicians of both parties have betrayed the people’s trust, Sharron Angle is a rare gem,” he said.
Note: This post has been corrected.