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The 'tea party' surge in the race to challenge Sen. Harry Reid

On April 15th, the Tea Party Express brought Sharron Angle, a candidate for the Nevada GOP's nomination to run against Sen. Harry Reid (D), to its pre-rally news conference. Angle accepted the group's endorsement in person. The media didn't much notice. As far as anyone knew, Angle was a frequent candidate -- after leaving the state assembly she'd lost bids for state senate and the U.S. Congress -- about to be shellacked again.

These days, the polls are telling us another story. Mason-Dixon had Angle at 5 percent before the Tea Party Express event. One month later, her support has quintupled to 25 percent. Sue Lowden, the former state GOP chairwoman and the first candidate on the airwaves, fell from 41 to 30 percent. Danny Tarkanian, a businessman and former basketball player, stalled out at 22 percent. Nevada Republicans now have a 3-way race.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's write-up on the poll explains what's happening: Angle's name recognition has moved up while Reid's campaign has torn down Lowden, aided by her mistakes. (The Post's Greg Sargent wrote at least six or seven posts about a bizarre Lowden gaffe in which she seemed to suggest a bartering system could bring down health-care costs).

But let's remember the other service the tea party has rendered. Activists have pounded Scott Ashjian, an undistinguished businessman who won the Tea Party line on the ballot, and his support has fallen to the low single digits. Potential tea party voters are moving from him to Angle, inside the GOP, making a vote-splitting disaster that helps Reid less likely.

And they have not been doing it with a lot of special effects.

By David Weigel  |  May 13, 2010; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Tea Party  
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