Desperately seeking Sharron: Nevada GOP candidate largely a no-show in campaign's final weeks
Sipping beers and sporting Sharron Angle t-shirts, Republican partisans mingled with the happy hour crowd at Shari's rock n' roll diner one recent evening and waited to cheer their candidate.
Waited and waited and then waited some more, it turned out, before it became evident that the 61-year-old Republican who threatens to send Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid into retirement was a no-show.
It wasn't the first time in the final stretch of a close and unpredictable Senate race. Since a debate two weeks ago — the only one Angle would agree to — public appearances by the gaffe-prone former state lawmaker have become as common as a desert waterfall and her interaction with the media virtually nonexistent.
Spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said Angle spends her days going door to door in rural Nevada or attending private fundraisers. "She is doing what she does best," Matthews said. "That's how Sharron Angle wins elections."
If anything, Angle has become even less of a presence since she and Reid debated on Oct. 14.
The next day, she spoke without public notice to a group of Hispanic high school students who had been ordered to submit any questions in advance. A videotape surfaced showing her saying, "some of you look a little more Asian to me" and drawing gasps from her audience.
She also suggested that one of her campaign commercials that used Hispanic men and a map of Mexico to criticize Reid on immigration wasn't what it seemed to be. "I'm not sure that those are Latinos in that commercial. What it is, is a fence and there are people coming across that fence."
A few days later came the non-event at Shari's diner. Manager John Kinikin said Angle's campaign blamed a scheduling conflict.
Most recently, Angle called off an appearance Wednesday at Aguilas Centro Familiar Cristiano in Las Vegas. Church secretary Ana Martinez said Angle's campaign had called weeks ago to request a visit.
Angle has avoided public events. And when she has ventured out for a handful of closed-door appearances, she has refused to answer questions from the media. She dodged reporters at a Fernley Republican Women meeting on Oct. 19.
Angle popped up for a closed-to-the-media appearance at a Reno business Monday, then left by a side door. Reporters were camped out by the front entrance, and some complained the campaign tricked them with a decoy getaway vehicle.
Not surprisingly, Reid and his allies seek to turn Angle's campaign style to their advantage.
"If you can't talk to the media when you're running for the United States Senate, you shouldn't be running for the United States Senate," Reid told dozens of college students at a recent Las Vegas rally. "But, really, if you had made some of her comments, I think you would go underground also."
Democrats have taken to goading Angle, releasing details of her private, undisclosed events to the media and sending a volunteer dressed in a chicken costume to taunt her.
Matthews said Angle has never skipped an event and accused the Reid campaign of setting her up. "It is not unusual for the Reid campaign to say we are going to be at events we were never scheduled to be at," she said.
Whatever the motivation, it's unusual for candidates to avoid the public and even the media in the final days of a race, when the focus turns increasingly to voter turnout.
On the day early voting opened, Reid held four public events, Angle none, a pattern that has held for more than two weeks.
Angle's campaign style also stands apart among tea party-backed candidates on the fall ballot, many of whom share her conservative views on Social Security, Medicare and other issues.
In Delaware, Republican Christine O'Donnell largely avoided the public for a couple of weeks after her mid-September primary win, but has kept a busy public schedule and increased her media appearances as Election Day approaches.
In Colorado, Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck maintained a vigorous schedule of public appearances and has participated in numerous debates with appointed Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Buck's campaign routinely provides his schedule to the media and most public events have been open to reporters.
In Kentucky, Republican Rand Paul makes frequent public appearances, although reporters often have to watch conservative blogs and local media to learn about his whereabouts.
Associated Press writers Jim Anderson in Colorado, Ben Evans in Delaware and Roger Alford in Kentucky contributed to this report.
Source: AP News
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