Even among the nation's most febrile political contests, few choices are as stark as the one Nevada voters will make between a circumspect four-term senator, one of the most visible emblems of Democratic power in Washington, and a largely unknown former state lawmaker with 10 grandchildren, whose fondness for weightlifting and for her .44 Magnum won the ardor of the Republican Party base.Faced with the newly minted Republican Party candidate, Sharron Angle, the senator, Harry Reid, who is the majority leader, will now have to contend with a highly unpredictable electorate. It's one that handed Barack Obama an overwhelming victory in 2008, but now burdened with a protracted recession and ever-relishing its role as national political barometer, has begun this season to demonstrate its ire against incumbents.
Notice a pattern in Steinhauer's political labeling?
Further, Ms. Angle - the Tea Party-blessed candidate who bested her two better-financed competitors in Tuesday's primary - is an untested statewide candidate whose positions as a lawmaker put her firmly to the right of most mainstream Nevada voters. The hot lights of national exposure can be a liability for new - and overly loquacious - candidates, as Rand Paul, the Republican Senate nominee from Kentucky, quickly found.The Times rarely if ever identifies Democratic candidates as far-left.
History would suggest that a victory in November for Ms. Angle is far from impossible. She will be aided by Mr. Reid's role as the highly visible symbol for what critics in Nevada, one of the most economically hard-hit states, see as the Obama administration's fiscal overreach. In 1982, a four-term incumbent, Senator Howard Cannon, whose power, while less than Mr. Reid's, was not insignificant in Washington, lost his Senate seat during a recession to Chic Hecht, a Republican who leaned hard to the right.
Among her detractors and her supporters she is known as a far-right conservative and a thorn in the side of both parties, routinely voting no on almost everything that came before the Legislature. She is also a tireless campaigner. When a 2002 redistricting forced her to face off with a wildly popular Republican incumbent, Greg Brower, she went door to door nightly, won and ended his political career.
When Steinhauer wasn't tarring Angle herself with labels, she found a Republican to do it for her:
"I would say there are a lot of Republicans who will find it difficult to support Sharron Angle," said State Senator William J Raggio, a Republican who has served in the Legislature since 1972. "Abolishing the Department of Education, phasing out Social Security, those are pretty extreme positions. I think any incumbent is vulnerable, but you have to have somebody that is also acceptable if you're going to win."You can follow Times Watch on Twitter .