Tea Party Scores A Victory In Nevada, Harry Reid Breathes Easier

The Tea Party movement scored a substantial victory in the Nevada Senate primary yesterday, but in doing so they may have given Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a second chance at life:

After years of maneuvering, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got the race he wanted.

Sharron Angle, a former Reno assemblywoman and Tea Party favorite, emerged from Tuesday’s Republican primary, lifted to a landslide by a solid base of conservative supporters but carrying political baggage that experts say gives the embattled Reid a new lease on political life.

Known as a staunch conservative, Angle now faces the challenge of appealing to the broader electorate, a task made difficult by her rigid ideology — she supports phasing out Social Security and dismantling the Education Department.

Angle’s win matches her ability to rally her base, which is solidly behind her, with Reid’s ability to do the same, as both battle for unaffiliated voters.

“This campaign is about taking back America,” Angle told supporters at the Orleans late Tuesday. “This campaign is about opposing taxes and spending and ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ politics-as-usual Washington, D.C., corruption that has taken a claim on our senior senator, Harry Reid.”

Angle said she would move forward with a “Coalition of the Willing” — 45 groups who would work for her election along with her two former rivals.

On Tuesday, Reid’s advisers telegraphed their coming campaign, saying Angle’s “dangerous ideas are wrong for Nevada.” Once her victory was apparent, the Nevada Democratic Party issued a news release: “Sharron’s ‘Wacky’ Angles: Dangerous Ideas Nevada Can’t Afford.”

Angle’s victory represents a sort of coup for Team Reid, which plotted a years-long strategy to shape Nevada’s electoral landscape, necessitated in part by the senator’s low approval ratings. Most recently, his campaign played an active role in the GOP primary, hammering away on one-time front-runner Sue Lowden. The relentless attacks, compounded by the candidate’s own gaffes, caused a steep slide for Lowden, a former state senator and Nevada Republican Party chairwoman who had argued that she was the most competitive contender against Reid.

Reid is not a politician who should be written off in any respect, especially considering a campaign war chest totaling at least $ 17 million, a substantial sum for a state that essentially only has one major media market. In Angle, however, Reid seems to have the perfect challenger to go up against, as the polls have begun to indicate:

This isn’t to say that Reid is secure by any means, but he’s clearly in a far better position running against Angle than he would have been against either of the other candidates and, as Politico notes this morning, the GOP has taken a huge risk in nominating her:

By nominating Angle, Republicans have also taken a huge gamble since many believe her views – like abolishing the Energy and Education departments and privatizing Social Security – present Reid with an inviting target.

Moments after the polls closed Tuesday, Reid’s team released a document entitled “Sharron’s Wacky Angles,” highlighting a number of statements she’s made over the past dozen years, including comments questioning two working parents; criticizing unemployment insurance in this state; equating drug dealers to the 9/11 hijackers; raising concerns about alcohol legalization; and accusing her of linking breast cancer and abortion.

“I don’t think she needs to make a gaffe – I think the contrast of Sen. Reid and Ms. Angle is so evident,” said Billy Vassiliadis, a long-time Reid adviser. “A moderate who works hard for seniors, protected Social Security and Medicare versus someone who questions the existence of it.”

Sig Rogich, a veteran GOP strategist who backs Reid, said Angle was probably “the most radical candidate we’ve had for United States Senate in Nevada history.”

Which is why Harry Reid is breathing just a little bit easier this morning.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. This will be a fascinating one to watch.

  2. Max Lybbert says:

    Reid’s numbers have gone up recently, but that’s largely because he got a jump on the general election compared to his opponents who were distracted by a primary fight.

    After serving nearly 30 years, Reid started this campaign with about 40% support. Without facing ads targeting him he’s only managed to squeak into a statistical tie with his opponent. He is not in great shape.

    Reid appears to have a strong upper bound of support at about 40%. His only chance is to get a number of votes from people who don’t like him but would prefer the devil they know over the devil they don’t know. However, that seems too much of a long shot for me.

  3. Anderson says:

    Max, most people don’t vote *for* a candidate, they vote *against* one.

    All Reid has to do is make his fluoridation-opposing, Scientologist-supporting opponent the candidate to vote against.

    The guns haven’t really been trained on Angle yet, b/c the Dems didn’t want her to lose the primary. That has begun to change.