Unguarded, but not unhinged

There are few, if any, politicians (or, indeed, members of the public at-large) who would welcome having their private conversations recorded. Sharron Angle, to whom this recently happened, is probably no exception. On the other hand, it doesn’t appear that Angle said anything harmful to her candidacy during a 38-minute conversation in which she tried to talk Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian into dropping out of the race. It’s even possible that the release of the recording will help Angle.
The comments being reported consist largely of two types – assessments of the strength of her candidacy and assessments of the Republican Party. Neither assessment is glowing. As to the former, Angle told Ashjian, “I’m not sure I can win if you’re hurting my chance [by remaining in the race].” When Ashjian responded “You have to understand, it’s not personal,” Angle countered, “Everyone says it’s not personal but then Harry Reid wins.”
This strikes me as a pretty realistic view of the situation. I doubt that Angle will be set back by evidence that she is running scared. And her comments may give some of Ashjian’s supporters pause.
As for the Republican Party, Angle had this to say:

The Republicans have lost their standards, they’ve lost their principles…..Really that’s why the machine in the Republican Party is fighting against me…..They have never really gone along with lower taxes and less government.

In my view, Angle’s judgment is a bit too harsh, especially as it applies to the past two years. But the assessment doesn’t strike me as impolitic. The Democrats may have become unpopular, but that doesn’t mean the Republican brand is strong. Nevada voters may well be receptive to a candidate who finds neither party appealing.
Even as she expressed disgust with the Republicans “machine,” Angle assured Ashjian that she will have access to key Republican players in the Senate, including Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, and Mitch McConnell. I don’t see any harm in this comment. Nevadans may consider Harry Reid too much of an insider, but it’s unlikely that they want a Senator with no meaningful access.
Perhaps the most damaging of Angle’s comments was her claim that, if elected, she will be one of a small band of true conservatives along with “maybe Joe Miller, Ken Buck, Christine O’Donnell” and “Marco Rubio, but that’s a stretch for me.” Nevada is not among our most conservative states, and its electorate may not want to be represented by someone who would be among the very most conservative members of the Senate.
At the same time, it’s not clear that Nevadans want a Senator who tapes private conversations without consent. Thus, Ashjian’s decision to release this recording may harm his candidacy. This, in turn, would help Angle.

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