Trying to wrangle the Angle mangle

The first and most obvious problem facing Sen. Harry Reid’s re-election chances is that he looks Asian. Oh, you didn’t hear that Sharron Angle went to Rancho, my old high school—go Rams!—and told Hispanic students some of them looked Asian?

Reid has a flair for statements that make you say, “What did he say?” Angle’s talent is for making you say, “How could she say that?,” or “How could anyone say that?” That difference may decide this election, when even those who oppose Reid enter the voting booth and say, “I don’t like him, but I can’t vote for her.”

Historically, Nevada has been a one-party state in Washington, D.C., and not just the gaming or mining party. It started out strongly Republican in the 1860s and tended to follow the country—mostly GOP when that party was in power, largely Democratic through the decades that Democrats dominated Congress. Often in Washington and almost always in Carson City, while the disagreements between the two parties could be contentious, comity triumphed. No more. It sometimes seems as though the two sides will barely speak to each other now.

Thus the significance of Republicans for Reid, a long list of veteran political and business leaders. Their reasons for endorsing Reid have included his defense of gaming and mining, and understanding that with a limited population, Nevada would be insane to defeat the Senate majority leader—and that Angle’s positions don’t even look sane in comparison with crazies such as Carl Palladino of New York and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware.

But while Palladino’s Neanderthal tendencies (sorry, Neanderthals) and O’Donnell’s obvious ignorance (sorry, ignoramuses) have destroyed their candidacies, Angle remains close to Reid in most polls and ahead of him in one. That it’s the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Mason-Dixon poll brings up a couple of points: one, the R-J push-polls, which can skew the results the way the R-J wants them, meaning toward Republicans; two, calling traditional voters on landlines skews the results, more likely toward Republicans.

Political analysts hither and yon have noted and speculated on the visceral hatred Reid inspires in some people. Perhaps we ask the wrong question: not why do they hate Reid, but, would they hate anyone else like him, namely, a Democrat with strong opinions and more talent for working on the inside than on the outside? Or are they simply right-wing Republicans who might occasionally vote for a Democrat, but only in a less or nonpartisan race for a less or nonpartisan position? In turn, are they enormous in number, or simply devoted Republicans and right-wingers who happen to be loud?

How unusual this hatred for Reid is may be gauged from some of the reactions to U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D.-Nev., and County Commissioner Rory Reid, the majority leader’s son. To put it another way, try reading some of the comment sections on any political website without feeling the need to bathe. Similarly, how popular Angle is may be gauged from how Titus’ campaign has been tying her opponent, former state Sen. Joe Heck (who, interestingly, has played down his legislative tenure) to Angle.

Angle’s biggest problem is not merely that she hates a government that feeds her. Or that her old pastor is bigoted toward Mormons and her diehard supporters see no contradiction between that and their feelings about Barack Obama’s onetime minister. It’s that she then denies taking these positions, even when the evidence is her own words, and in context.

If the big polls are accurate, the Reid-Angle and Titus-Heck races will be close, and the Sandoval-Reid race won’t be. My guess is that the Democratic Get Out the Vote effort, along with fear of a Republican sweep, will help overcome displeasure with the economy, personal hatred (on either side) and the clumsiest journalistic hatchet job against an officeholder in recent memory, to re-elect Reid, and that Titus will squeak through. Rory Reid has a tougher row to hoe, but the Get Out the Vote effort certainly won’t hurt him.

Could I be wrong? Of course. But for the sake of your state and country and mine, you’d better hope not.

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