All politicians are going to try to get their message out as best they can and try to talk to as sympathetic media folks as they can. Angle has taken this to an extreme. She seems only comfortable with the sympathetic conservative radio hosts and, to a lesser extent, the Review-Journal. But she’s done my program, and it got national attention. But the statement that she made where essentially she said, “I can go on Fox News and they’ll let me put up my Web site and they’ll let me beg for money and others won’t,” was not just saying out loud what a lot of politicians might think quietly. It was a much more extreme example of the phenomenon, I thought.
Is there anyway the media can push back against that?
It’s difficult when they do what they’re doing now. In an event about two weeks ago—and I attended this—she said she was going to make a statement and take no questions. They had her set up in front of a door, which someone held open for her, so when I tried to start asking questions she immediately just went out the door. Just last week, she held another news conference on the estate tax and said she would only take questions on the estate tax. Now if I had been there I would not have followed those rules. The press should never follow the rules the candidate sets up. They should do their job. I’m not sure that’s always happened here, although some reporters, I think, are not going to stand for it.
Is it more damaging to her image to be seen as not being able to answer questions?
A lot of people don’t like the media. It’s shocking but true. So they might think we’re badgering her. But she has taken such an extreme way of handling this—walking away from cameras, etc.—that it contributes to a “not ready for prime time” image. There are those who believe she should just ignore us completely; just run ads and have her friends in American Crossroads and other groups run ads bashing Harry Reid, and hope she can win that way. In some ways that might be, while an abhorrent strategy to me, a more effective political strategy.
So how did you get your interview with Sharron Angle?
I asked for it [laughs]. The interview came soon after the primary, when they were getting pounded for not doing mainstream media interviews. Someone from her campaign came to me and said, you’re the guy who’s known for doing the toughest interviews, we’re going to do you and that will shut everybody up.
Did they make any attempt to limit the scope of the interview?
Not at all. They know me and they know that that would be fruitless.
Have there been cases as equally extreme candidates in Las Vegas in the past and how have they fared?
The only historical analogy that’s been made in the U.S. Senate race—and it’s not completely apt—was with a little known assemblyman named Chic Hecht, who ran against a senator named Howard Cannon. Cannon came out of the primary badly damaged, and they hid Hecht for the general election season. Because Cannon was so damaged, Hecht eked out a victory. He became a one-term embarrassment for the state. But they didn’t have to hide Hecht for as long as they’d have to hide Angle. Then, the general election season was only a couple of months. It’s five months now. And in 1982 there wasn’t the 24/7 media explosion there is now.
How do you feel the national media has covered this race?
Chuck Todd at NBC and MSNBC has a great handle on what’s going on in the states, and certainly does in Nevada. Mark Barabak at The Los Angeles Times, who’s not in Washington but is a national reporter, actually takes the time to come here. Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post has a great handle on what’s going on out here and across the states.
It’s very difficult to cover a state race from Washington, D.C. What’s interesting is that for months and months and months the conventional wisdom in Washington was that Harry Reid was dead. Except for just a couple of people there who really understood that you can never count Harry Reid out and the Republicans could really blow this primary. Now, the conventional wisdom has completely turned around to, “Oh my God, who did they nominate? This guy might actually survive. This is incredible!” They certainly picked up on the shift.
Was Harry Reid ever dead in your mind?