The XX Factor

Sharron Angle’s Silence Boosts Her Chances

I’ve often said that if I had no conscience or beliefs, I’d like to be a Republican campaign consultant. (This is also how I imagine Karl Rove found his calling.)  What a great, professionally fulfilling job that must be!  For instance, how fun would it be to be tasked with the job of getting Sharron Angle to stop speaking to the press?  Getting politicians to shun attention is like pulling a 25-year-old Wall Street denizen off the hookers and blow.  And yet the emergency fix-it squad from GOP headquarters sent to control Sharron Angle did in fact get her to shove a sock in it, after they realized that she simply cannot speak without saying something scandalous.  The strategy of having her avoid questions— most recently by fleeing reporters who met her at the airport —is working.  Fivethirtyeight predicts Angle winning with a slender margin .

How did the GOP do it?  How did they convince Angle to shut her mouth?  I can’t imagine they said, “Every time your mouth opens, Harry Reid starts looking better even to the stupidest voters.”  My guess is they stoked a little of that right-wing paranoia, convincing Angle that reporters are a liberal cabal that’s out to get her, and are therefore best avoided. It’s really the only strategy they have, and they got lucky, because it can backfire.  Palin’s hatred of the “lamestream” media, with their impertinent questions about actual policy, hasn’t persuaded her to retreat to a rabbit hole.

Because of all this, I was sad to see Sharron Angle didn’t even make it onto the Daily Beast’s election gaffe list . Her primary opponent, Sue Lowden, did, because of her comment suggesting that people pay doctors in chickens instead of health insurance, 19th-century style.  But can that really compete with Angle classics, such as ” Second Amendment remedies ” or calling the unemployed ” spoiled ” in a state with 15 percent unemployment?

It’s such a squeaker that Reid could conceivably turn things around in Nevada because he’s backed by the unions, which are both powerful in the state and good at getting out the vote in Nevada. But Angle’s secret weapon is elderly white paranoid types.  To quote Scott Burns at MSN Money , Nevada is a “geezer magnet,” the No. 1 state in the country to attract retirees.  Who then immediately start freaking out, Arizona-style, that the Southwest doesn’t look as white or picket-fence-y as wherever they came from, and start voting for candidates who promise they can remake the state in their image.

Photograph of Sharron Angle by Getty Images.