Nearly six years after Republicans tried and failed to beat Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada in a very competitive race and with his retirement now looming, the GOP has committed to claiming the seat. There's just one problem: The woman who crashed and burned against Reid in 2010 seems poised to jump back in the race and could derail the candidate party leaders prefer.
Sharron Angle, a former Nevada assemblywoman, lost to Reid in 2010 even though the New York Times estimated Republicans had an 83 percent chance of victory. Republicans don't want to see that scenario repeat itself, according to Politico, but they may not be able to stop the rightward trajectory she could pull the party in, no matter their protests.
U.S. Rep. Joe Heck "can win. It is about winning elections, after all," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. "[Angle] had a shot and has been unsuccessful, so my money is with him."
Heck, a physician and Army Reserve brigadier general, was elected to the House from Nevada's 3rd District the same year Angle lost to Reid. The GOP is concerned that Angle could pull him too far to the right during the primary, leaving him unelectable in the general election.
The stakes are high. The Nevada Senate seat is one of the few open and contested seats in the country. While Senate Republicans boosted their numbers in the 2014 midterms, picking up several seats once held by Democrats to pad a healthy majority, many of those seats were seen as leaning Republican in the first place. In 2016, the reverse is true, and Democrats are eyeing many seats in states that President Barack Obama carried in his elections. Electoral math shows that Democrats could reclaim the Senate with a good showing.
Things certainly aren’t how they were in 2010, when Angle seemed electable against Reid as a wave of conservative protest against Obama’s healthcare law swept the Republicans into 63 new House seats and six Senate seats and control of the House. The tea party, which propelled the GOP that year, has since then lost a fair amount of public support, and just 17 percent of American adults now identify as tea party supporters, compared with 32 percent in 2010.