(Steve Sebelius) – The website Politico has the best inside-the-campaign account yet published about Sharron Angle‘s campaign against Harry Reid. The story portrays the campaign as a battleground between ideological Tea Party activists who knew little about campaigning and outside professional advisers who failed to gain the trust or the ear of the candidate.
Campaign manager Terry Campbell comes across poorly in the story, from his failure to master simple details of the operation (cash on hand, which ads were airing) to his slow decisionmaking (no field director or political director were ever hired) to his voluntary absence from the campaign for weeks during the general election, when he scheduled elective knee surgery. (Campbell, who lives in Missouri, stayed with the Angle family during his sojourns in the state.)
Campbell apparently had Angle’s ear, dating to the time he headed up the Nevada Policy Research Institute in Reno. (BTW, I’m told by at least one knowledgeable source that Campbell’s management of that organization was equally as poor as his management of Angle’s campaign as depicted by Politico.)
The story also focuses on the Las Vegas campaign office, dubbed by some as “The Island of Misfit Toys.” (My colleague Jon Ralston first wrote about problems in that office on his blog, including a mandatory three-hour indoctrination without which one could not volunteer for the candidate.) There, Tea Party enthusiasts ran the campaign as they saw fit, without regard to conventions or, according to one source who spoke to me on background, even federal campaign finance laws. According to the Politico piece, the office actually closed early on Election Day with two hours to go until polls closed to get ready for that night’s “victory party.”
In addition, the story talks about last-minute tensions when the Angle campaign invited U.S. Sen. John McCain to stump for the candidate at The Orleans. But after Tea Party supporters called Angle — directly — she balked, fearing she’d lose her base and her volunteers if she appeared on stage with McCain, whom the Tea Party doesn’t consider a real conservative.
What the story doesn’t say — but what a source confided to me — was that Angle struck a compromise: She would not at any time share the stage with McCain. He’d make his remarks, leave, and then and only then would she appear. After aides said that would be awkward, Angle settled on the final compromise. She’d walk on stage as McCain was leaving. The awkward, half-hug shared by the two went unnoticed by people who attended the event and had no idea of the behind-the-scenes antics.
It’s a devastating piece, one that makes clear the blame for Angle’s loss of a clearly winnable race rests not only with Reid’s near-flawless campaign, but also with the war inside Angle’s, which pitted professional against committed-but-untrained amateurs. This is the kind of tension only the candidate herself could have quelled, and it appears from several accounts that emerged that she threw her lot in with the amateurs, with painful results on Nov. 2. The enduring lesson: Fealty to conservative principles is fine, but when you’re running for office, you need professionals –regardless of ideology — to do the heavy lifting.
It’s a lesson Angle should learn before embarking on her next bid for public office.