The Fix: What will Sharron Angle do?
That's short for "What will Sharron Angle do" and it's the question on the minds of almost every political operative in Nevada in the wake of Sen. John Ensign's (R) retirement announcement on Monday.
Angle, in case you have been on another planet for the last year, was a tea party darling who came out of nowhere -- literally -- to win the Republican Senate nomination in 2010. She went on to lose to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in the fall election after a campaign marred by her rhetorical stumbles and avoidance of the media.
That race left many Republican strategists shaking their heads at the missed opportunity but established Angle as a major force within the tea party movement nationally. That grassroots support coupled with her demonstrated fundraising ability -- Angle collected $14 million in a single three-month period of 2010 -- make her a political force to contend with in the state.
But, assuming Angle wants back into the political mix, what office might she run for in 2012?
Frank Ricotta, the chairman of the Clark Country Republican Party, said Angle had yet to make up her mind. "I don't think shes decided on what direction to take, that's what she's kind of indicated to me," he said. "Everyone is just waiting to see what she does."
Angle seems to have two options: run for the Senate or the 2nd congressional district.
The Senate seat is, obviously, now open. But with 2nd district Rep. Dean Heller (R) almost certain to run for the Ensign vacancy, his congressional seat will also likely come open, offering Angle another avenue to get to Washington.
"You could go broke betting on Angle logic," said Jon Ralston, the state's preeminent political reporter. "If anyone sane is advising her, she should announce for Heller's seat the day after he declares for the Senate."
Angle's political team -- such as they are -- have been relatively tight-lipped about her plans and did not return emails from the Fix seeking comment for this story.
One Nevada Republican told The Fix that Angle was planning to run before Ensign resigned, feeling that she was called to do so: "She doesn't see Dean Heller as a conservative." That strongly suggests that she will run for Senate, but "her fundraising abilities locally are almost zero. Nobody in Nevada would support her candidacy."
John Yob, an adviser to Angle in 2010, did tell Politico's Ben Smith that "she will be a tremendously strong candidate for whichever office she chooses to run for."
On paper, the open 2nd district -- assuming, as nearly everyone does, that Heller will run for Senate -- is the far easier path.