Outsider Senate candidate Sharron Angle introduced herself to a very curious Senate Republican Conference on Tuesday, asking the group of Washington insiders to embrace her as she prepares to battle Majority Leader Harry Reid in perhaps the most anticipated contest of 2010.
Angle, making the rounds of official Washington this week after securing Nevadas GOP Senate nomination on June 8, attended the weekly caucus lunch. Republican Senators described her remarks as brief and introductory; other sources added that she discussed the negative campaign she expects from her Democratic opponent and the issues-based race she intends to run.
Three rounds of applause were heard coming from the private luncheon, held in the Lyndon Baines Johnson room adjacent to the Senate floor. Most Republicans gave Angle positive reviews following the gathering, in which many of them met her for the first time.
Angle ignored reporters questions upon exiting the lunch, although she smiled as a National Republican Senatorial Committee official escorted her to a waiting car.
Obviously its early, but were glad to meet Sharron Angle. We told her we would be solidly behind her. We will support her efforts, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) told reporters after the lunch, just prior to a scheduled meeting with the former Nevada Assemblywoman at the campaign committees headquarters.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, perhaps observing his unofficial campaign nonaggression pact with Reid, declined to comment when asked if he is confident of Angles ability to unseat Reid in November. The Kentucky Republican referred the question to Cornyn.
Angle was considered an underdog for most of the primary campaign. She trailed badly in public opinion polls for several months before surging in the closing weeks to win with a solid 41 percent of the vote in a crowded field. The conservative favorite had little in the way of a professional campaign operation and won on the strength of grass-roots organizing and support from the Club For Growth and tea party activists.
But since Angles victory, the newly minted GOP nominee continues to be dogged by news reports about controversial positions she has expressed. She has said that she might favor privatizing the Veterans Affairs Department and that she supports implementing private investment accounts as a part of Social Security. That might explain why Angle refused to answer several questions fielded by a chasing Capitol Hill press corps Tuesday following the lunch and why accompanied by NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer she used a private stairway reserved for Senators and approved staff to make her way from the second floor of the Capitol to the first-floor exit and her waiting car.