Posts Tagged ‘Danny Tarkaninan’

Nevada Tea Party Tumult Microcosm of National Debate

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Just a few months ago Harry Reid was all but left for dead in his reelection campaign. In February, he trailed the then Republican frontrunner, former Nevada Republican Party Chair Sue Lowden, by double digits.  But the surge of Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, Lowden’s much discussed gaffe on health care and consistent attacks on her by Harry Reid has shaken up the race and given the Majority Leader a glimmer of hope.

The shakeup began in early April, when Lowden  responded to a question on health care costs by saying that we needed to go back to a cash system for health care. She referred to bartering as a possible alternative to solve the health care crisis. A few days later, under questioning, she doubled down on the statement, saying on a public affairs program: 

“before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house.

“I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors,” she said. “Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.”

As Lowden was being pilloried by the media and mocked online, Sharon Angle was racking up endorsements from the Club for Growth, Gun Owners of America and the Nevada Tea Party. Within a month, her support jumped twenty points in the fractured race for the nomination.

Sharron Angle is like Rand Paul on steroids: 

She supports the privatization of Social Security; advocates cutting federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars; wants to abolish the federal income tax and replace it with a flat tax, supports pulling the United States out of the UN and (by extension) giving up our veto power, wants to repeal the new health care law and ban almost all abortions. She thinks the Energy and Education Departments are unconstitutional, would get rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and would remove all campaign finance restrictions. She is in favor of nuclear storage at Yucca mountain, which might be the right stand for the country, but has been a third rail in Nevada politics for years and no candidate has won statewide in recent history with this position.

To boot, Angle has expressed reservations about the legalization of alcohol(!), has been accused of having ties to Scientology (which she denies) and was named “one of Nevada’s worst legislators” multiple times by the Las Vegas Review Journal. According to Politico’s reporting a week and a half ago, her website was “full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.”

Other than that, she seems totally mainstream and competent…   

Seizing the opportunity, Reid and his allies have gone on the attack against Lowden, but have refrained from attacking  Angle. The strategy seem to have worked, as the latest polling shows Angle now leading by 7 points, with Danny Tarkanian and Lowden in a dead heat for the number two position.

Clearly, Reid would rather run against Angle, but his strategy has had the double effect of weakening Lowden and increasing the chances that he will be able to run against a far right Tea Party candidate with positions way out of the mainstream.

While Reid’s support hasn’t increased, the contest between the three Republican challengers seems to be paying dividends for Reid. He now trails Lowden and Tarkanian by just a few points and leads in a matchup against Angle.

What happens on Tuesday is anyone’s guess. Primary polling is notoriously difficult to do, and 13 people are running in the race, but if Harry Reid gets his way, Nevada voters will have to choose from a Senator that they don’t like or a far right candidate that they don’t agree with.

Either way, Harry Reid is looking less and less like a dead man walkin these days.

More importantly, Nevada seems to be a microcosm of a process that is happening all over the country. As registered Republicans become a smaller and smaller  part of the electorate and an increasingly paranoid  group, Tea Party candidates are having more and more success in the primaries. In the cases where they can’t win they are pushing moderate Republicans to become more extreme (see McCain in Arizona).

Like Jake Scully in Avatar, The Republicans were hoping to tame the dragon of the Tea Party and ride it to power in 2010 and 2012. Increasingly it looks just as possible that the Tea Party dragon will eat them for dinner.