Back in 1980, folks in Jimmy Carter’s campaign were salivating at the chance to take on Ronald Reagan in the fall. They thought that he was so far to the right that they could easily dispatch the former Governor of the (then-)Golden State. The Gipper won in a landslide, carrying all but six states.
Similarly, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Mt. Crumpit) is salivating at the chance to take on Sharon Angle, the Tea Party-backed candidate who yesterday won the GOP primary in Nevada. Portrayed as eccentric by some, the Republican nominee polls worse against Reid than did her major rivals for the party’s nod. Still, despite spending millions of dollars in a state he has represented in the Senate for 24 years, Reid garners only about 40% of the vote in most surveys, not a good sign for a man with high name recognition.
One thing we know about Angle is that she can rally her base. That’s going to mean a lot of volunteers making phone calls and knocking on doors, generating enthusiasm for her candidacy and helping get people to the polls in November.
Reid may attack her eccentricities, but that could backfire given his unpopularity and the national mood. And one thing we’ve learned from campaigns going as far back as the Gipper’s is that a candidate who can rally his base stands in good stead against an unpopular incumbent.
It’s not yet a done deal for Sharon Angle, but with the most dynamic grassroots movement in America today currently behind her and with Nevadans disgruntled about their senior Senator, she should be able to build up a good head of steam to defeat the out-of-touch incumbent.
Remember, folks, enthusiasm matters in politics. Without the passion Obama generated among young people in the 2008 campaign, he wouldn’t be president today. (And Democrats, as a result, wouldn’t be so worried about the mid-term elections.)