Why Harry Reid's Chances Are Improving in Nevada

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada looked beatable this year. Now? Not so much

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Isaac Brekken / AP

Sharron Angle speaks to supporters after winning the Nevada Republican U.S. Senate primary election race Tuesday, June 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Nevada's Sharron Angle is an art teacher, a weight-lifting champ, a Christian-school founder and a former four-term state representative from Reno. Her two previous runs at higher office failed. But backed by the Tea Party and the taxophobic Club for Growth, her candidacy for the U.S. Senate took off this spring. She now faces majority leader Harry Reid in the fall.

Angle, 60, looks to be the main reason Reid will survive for a fifth term. She wants to privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. She has no use for the departments of Energy and Education, the IRS, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Environmental Protection Agency or Planned Parenthood. She'd like to repeal the 16th Amendment, which provides for direct federal taxation, and has expressed a fondness for the 18th Amendment, which created Prohibition. She has a permit to carry a concealed .44 Magnum and brags about bringing it to campaign events. But her passion also leads her to make troublesome statements: "The nation is arming," she said last month. "What are they arming for if it isn't that they are so distrustful of their government? They're afraid they'll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways. That's why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don't win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?"

Angle was in Washington recently trying to drum up a little cash, and no wonder: Reid has $9 million in his war chest. Angle finished the primaries with $139,000, though she's raised another $917,000 online since. Compact and folksy, Angle has always run against the Establishment; trying to shoehorn herself into it now is not a comfortable fit for either side. Even top Republicans concede that their best shot at unseating the Democratic leader may be slipping away, a casualty of a GOP right flank gone a little haywire this year. Reid is rising quickly in polls as he introduces Nevada to his new opponent — spending $420,000 on TV ads casting Angle as a throwback.

Angle, in reply, is trying to reverse the current. In a Fox News interview on June 14, she asserted that she's the "mainstream" candidate in the race while Reid "gave us the stimulus, the bailout, Obamacare. He thinks amnesty should be the priority. Cap and trade. All of those things that I oppose, he agrees with," she said. "So if I'm wacky, what is that?"