Move to the right, lose the middle

Will Nevada’s Tea Party-backed candidate lose the moderate Republican voter?

It’s one of America’s hottest senatorial races. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) is not up against the usual Republican candidate.

He’s running against Sharron Angle – a Christian conservative whose views are extreme by moderate Republican standards. She opposes abortion after rape, widely accepted social welfare programmes, and has said that Sharia Law is spreading in American cities.

Angle is a lifelong school teacher with a short political career in Nevada’s state assembly. She became the Republican nominee for Nevada’s Senate race after she was backed by the Tea Party Express – a  national group supporting conservative candidates. The group spent at least half a million dollars on Angle’s advertising campaign and now the polls indicate she is tied neck and neck with Senator Reid – an established career politician who has represented this western state in Washington since 1986.

Moderate Republicans across America share very few of Angle’s views. So I went to Nevada with some simple questions: Will moderate Republicans vote for Sharron Angle despite her extreme positions? Will voters across the Republican spectrum punish the incumbent Harry Reid regardless? Or will they select Nevada’s unique ballot option: “None of the above” – which is essentially a protest vote – a vote for nobody.

Anyone but Reid

Pete Lazetich grew up in Montana, but has lived in Nevada for more than 30 years. He owns an attorney services business in Reno, and a 10,000 acre ranch near the mining town Eureka in an isolated part of central Nevada.

“The perfect state of the government would be not to see much of the government,” Pete said as he loaded his trailer full of hay.

He’s a fiscal conservative, believes in limited government, and has a get-up-and-go attitude towards everything he does. His Republican ideals are guided by a libertarian philosophy, rather than the social conservatism that has influenced the Republican party especially since the rise of the religious right. He doesn’t agree with Sharron Angle on many issues, but he will vote for her – just to get Harry Reid out of office.

“Its certainly one of those campaigns where you don’t want to vote for either one of them,” Pete said. “But you just can’t sit out, I just can’t sit out, I haven’t walked into that ballot booth yet but right now, my vote will certainly be for Angle. Its going to be for the Republican, its going to be to defeat Harry Reid.”

Pete believes Harry Reid has done nothing for Nevada over the years. Nevada is one of America’s most troubled states. It has the highest foreclosure and unemployment rate in the country – and all of this happened while Harry Reid was the Senate majority leader in Washington.

“I have reservations about all politicians, but I just don’t think Angle can do as much damage that Harry Reid and the current regime have done.”

Betrayed by his party

But other Republicans believe that Angle can do more damage than ever.

Pete took me to Eureka’s local bar. It was a dingy place full of locals. There were stuffed deer heads and mountain lions displayed on the walls most customers were drinking either Budweiser or bourbon and the most exotic item on the menu was a Philly Cheesesteak. Pete introduced me to Bob Dinwiddie. He has lived in Eureka for decades working as a machinist for the mining industry here. He has also voted Republican his whole life but unlike Pete, he feels Sharron Angle CAN do damage if elected.

“Sharron Angle wants to get rid of social security (the American pension system),” Bob Dinwiddie said. “She says that social security is welfare, well I don’t believe so, and I’ve been paying into it my entire life.”

But Bod Dinwiddie will not vote for Harry Reid either.

“Reid shut down those coal-fired power plants they were building in Ely and that cost us lots of jobs. I don’t care for him either so I’m going to vote “none of the above” which means you are voting for nobody.”

Division does not serve us

I met Sam Albright the next day. He is a self-employed farm mechanic and came to fix Pete’s tractor. Sam was born and raised on a Nevada ranch, attended the West Point Military Academy, and has voted Republican since he was eligible to vote 1978.

“I just can’t bring myself to vote for Sharron Angle,” Sam said. “She’s not the brightest tack in the box. I would really love to because I really hate Reid, but I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.”

Sam told me that during Angle’s time in Nevada’s 42-member assembly, she voted “no” so frequently on matters of wide consensus that votes were often called “41-to-Angle”.

“She obviously has no idea how to work with people,” Sam said. “What this country needs right now is for everybody to come together and work together. But if we are going to send someone like that (Angle) back there (to Washington), and she’s not going to work with nobody, it’s just a waste of time.”

Sam thinks her views are too extreme – at a time when the country needs co-operation in the middle of the political spectrum.

“She is way out there,” Sam said laughing. “I think she is further right than I am, and I’m pretty right. You can’t govern there, no country in the world can get along that way. You just can’t be against everybody. I mean she is just totally against the Left, which I don’t have a problem with because I’m totally against the Left too, but I don’t think I’d make a good senator.”

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