Nevada Senate nominee Angle keeps low profile at Capitol

Former Nevada state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle made her first trip to the Senate after winning the GOP nomination for the right to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this fall.
By Amy Gardner, Karen Tumulty and Felicia Sonmez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sharron Angle, Nevada's newly minted Republican Senate nominee, arrived in Washington on Tuesday to court GOP powerbrokers and try to prove that she is ready to take down Majority Leader Harry M. Reid. But as she made the rounds of the senators she came to see, the anti-Washington candidate seemed to go out of her way not to be seen.

All of Angle's meetings took place behind closed doors, beginning with a stop at the Senate Republicans' weekly luncheon as the guest of John Ensign (Nev.). She hustled past reporters without saying a word, and remained inside for an hour and a half. (Three short rounds of applause could be heard.)

Angle's Washington visit illustrated one of the difficulties she now faces. Even as she reaches out to national Republican strategists and donors to compete against Reid's massive political machine, she must strive not to appear as though she is losing her outsider "tea party" identity to the GOP establishment.

Larry Hart, her campaign consultant, promised over the weekend that Angle will remain "down-home." But some tea party activists have begun to doubt whether she is remaining true to the cause. "When you start making it a political thing and then it's the name and the money behind you that wins, that takes away from it," said Tammy Symons, founder of the Moapa Valley Tea Party in suburban Las Vegas. "And then you have a tendency to owe those people who come in and take over your campaign. That's what we've been fighting against. It's not okay just because it's behind closed doors."

When the door to the luncheon finally opened, a smiling Angle walked out, accompanied by Rob Jesmer, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

A dozen reporters followed the candidate. She momentarily eluded them down a back stairway before the group caught up with her, continuing to pepper her with questions as she bustled through the halls of the Capitol into a light drizzle outside and into a black sedan.

She did offer one brief statement. A reporter asked whether she was happy with the reception she received at lunch.

"Yes," she said.

Angle left Republican senators to do the talking for her.

"She's going to run her own campaign," Ensign said, when asked about Angle's silent strategy. "This is a person who came out of nowhere and won handily in the campaign, and it shocked a lot of people. But right now, as I said before, she's an outsider. That's a good thing to be this year."

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) offered an assessment of her opponent: "The people of Nevada are tired of him. At least, that's what I hear."

And Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) said he is confident that Angle can beat Reid. Coburn said she did not take questions from senators at the lunch. They discussed "getting her organization together."

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