His approval ratings are absolutely horrific. Here is arguably the most powerful senator Nevada’s ever had and his approval rating rarely gets above forty percent. How does that happen? I don’t think you can cite one thing. Certainly, that he is part of the three-headed face of the agenda in Washington—Obama, Reid, Pelosi—has definitely hurt him. His numbers clearly started to suffer when he got into leadership and he’s been perceived by some as becoming more of a D.C. denizen than a resident of Nevada; he can’t relate to Nevada anymore. All of which Angle has exploited.
There’s also something more ineffable and it’s something that I like to call “Reid fatigue.” He’s been in the state in elected office on-and-off for forty years. You have the whole familiarity-breeds-contempt problem. But the intensity of it is what’s shocking. People just hate Harry Reid. They would vote for Charles Manson [if he] took up residence in Nevada over Harry Reid.
Sharron Angle’s not making the kind of inroads that Charles Manson would?
She has made inroads. But in the six weeks since her primary her campaign has been nothing short of a disaster in some ways. Reid has exploited certain things she’s said. He’s just pounded her on TV. And her campaign, which essentially has been run out of her living room for every campaign she’s run, is struggling now to become a campaign for the highest office in the country beside the presidency.
The Los Angeles Times recently ran a piece on Las Vegas newspapers characterizing the Sun as Reid-friendly and the Review-Journal as hyper-partisan and bent on ousting the senator. How accurate did you feel that was?
There’s no question that Brian Greenspun, who’s the head of the Sun, supports Harry Reid. But he does not have that much hands-on impact on the Sun and what it does on a day-to-day basis. Would he like to see Harry Reid win? Yes. Do people who work for the Sun know that? Yes. Does he influence day-to-day coverage? I’m not at the Sun, I can’t really speak to that, but I don’t think so. I know the political reporters and they’ve done some great coverage.
I’ve worked for both organizations, and the Review-Journal is a completely different story. The Review-Journal is essentially a part of the “anybody-but-Reid” caucus. It might as well be a PAC the way that it plays stories, slants stories. It’s one thing for the publisher, who I believe is clinically obsessed with defeating Reid. But when you have the editor of a newspaper showing antipathy toward Reid and sympathy for Angle in blog posts, and he’s supposed to be overseeing supposedly dispassionate coverage, any objective reporter of the scene—as Jim Rainey certainly is at The Los Angeles Times—would come to the same conclusion.
So where do Las Vegas residents get straight news coverage?
I would not say you can’t get any straight news coverage in either newspaper; you can. But the Sun is a very different animal than the Review-Journal. It appears daily inside the Review-Journal but it’s devoted to doing more in-depth contextual reporting. So it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to compare what the Sun does to the Review-Journal.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s coverage of the U.S. Senate race cannot be taken seriously and they’re the ones who are doing it on a daily basis. Where do you go to get straight news? That’s a good question to ask.
Did the rise of Review-Journal darling Angle take you by surprise?
The answer is yes and no. I do these predictions in the first column of the year in January. While I thought Sue Lowden was going to win, I said don’t be surprised if Sharron Angle pulls an upset. She was the only one in that very crowded primary who had an actual political base to work off of. And that’s what really wins primaries with their low turnouts.
How did Angle win?
She took the race for two reasons. One was because Lowden imploded. She had this infamous “bartergate” chickens-for-welfare thing that she allowed to metastasize. And then the Tea Party Express and The Club for Growth came in and took, again, what I said was a living room campaign, with little money relative to what Lowden had, and juiced her up. They put about a million bucks in.
Angle has spoken about “earned media”; the idea that she won’t bother talking to the mainstream media because she can’t hawk her Web site and ask for direct donations. She’s avoided most unsympathetic media outlets. Is this a new extreme in the way politicians play—and evade—media?