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Bob Menendez: Tea parties are saddling the GOP with loser candidates

Nevada GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, who never courted the media the way Rand Paul did, has avoided her fellow "tea party" favorite's mistakes, keeping fairly quiet since securing the nomination Tuesday. That hasn't stopped Democrats from making Angle the star of their story about the 2010 elections -- a saga of tea party activists saddling the GOP with candidates that even an angry electorate can't possibly send to Washington.

"In the past few weeks Nevada became the latest battleground for the Republican civil war," DSCC chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told me when I asked why the party was coming out of the gate by going after Angle's less mainstream statements. "They've got a candidate, in Sharron Angle, whose social agenda might generate national headlines, but Nevadans can't afford it. If you think about it, between her positions on wanting to phase out Social Security and Medicare, wanting to send nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain -- those are totally out of the mainstream with Nevada voters. Harry Reid is very much in the mainstream, and Sharron Angle is appealing to the fringe of the Republican Party."

I asked where Democrats could take this argument, exactly, if Angle and Paul simply closed off access to the national media. "Well, we're happy to engage them because they're out of the mainstream," he said. "Nevada is not an isolated incident. In Florida the establishment candidate was forced out of the party, in Kentucky the Republicans nominate a candidate who questions the Civil Rights Act. They forced out the moderate candidate in Connecticut. Even where they get the candidate they supposedly want in California, in Carly Fiorina, she's had to run far to the right to win over the party. Republicans are in the very unique position of having to support the candidates they didn't want. There's a reason the party wanted Sue Lowden and Trey Grayson to win -- they wanted candidates who could appeal to independents."

By David Weigel  |  June 9, 2010; 5:55 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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