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?

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?

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.