The woman Republicans are counting on to knock out Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid courted GOP rank and file Tuesday and left it to them to answer for her.
Sharron Angle, the tea party favorite who shocked the Republican establishment last week, joined GOP senators at their weekly luncheon, part of a Washington trip that included sessions with leading conservatives. She rushed out without answering questions from some two dozen reporters who followed her as she exited the Capitol to a waiting car.
"She just said she was going to work hard and was looking forward to the opportunity," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who described her as articulate during a brief exchange at the closed-door luncheon.
Since she captured the Senate nomination, Democrats have worked overtime to portray Angle as too far out of the mainstream to defeat the four-term Reid of Nevada. She favors abolishing the Education Department and privatizing Social Security and Medicare.
Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Democrats are trying to create doubts about Angle and shift the attention from Reid.
"If you've got an approval rating like Harry Reid, of course you're going to try and change the focus, but this is really a referendum on Senator Reid," Cornyn said.
National Republicans are promising to help bankroll her campaign. Reid is on track to raise $25 million to defend his seat, and Angle's campaign banked $1.2 million through mid-May, the most recent figures available. Her campaign says she's raised nearly $700,000 in online donations alone since the election.
She had hired the online fundraisers who helped Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown raise $12 million over the Internet, Indiana-based Prosper Group Corp.
Angle also was scheduled to meet with Grover Norquist, the head of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform, on Wednesday.
Angle's tiny campaign staff has been overmatched since her primary victory. She ran her mostly volunteer-staffed operation out of her home, with just a handful of advisers including husband Ted Angle. The campaign is shopping for more office space in Las Vegas.
In another boost for Angle, a political committee advised by President George W. Bush's former political adviser, Karl Rove, is running an ad statewide that blames Reid for backing the costly stimulus plan while 180,000 Nevadans remain jobless. It says the state is in economic "free fall," alluding to Nevada's record 13.7 percent unemployment and nation-leading foreclosure rate.
Angle has said repeatedly she supports phasing out Social Security over time, calling it "a broken system without much to recommend it." She has not offered a detailed plan but says seniors now collecting benefits would not be cut off. Younger workers would be shifted to private retirement accounts, an idea that is similar to what former President George W. Bush proposed six years ago, only to see it flop.
On Monday, Angle appeared to backpedal. Asked by Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity about criticism that she wanted to phase out Social Security, Angle said, "It's nonsense."
"I want to save Medicare and Social Security," Angle said, according to a transcript of the program. "What we need is to make our senior citizens feel secure once more with their own Social Security and Medicare. But going forward we need to personalize that program in a way that the government can't go in and raid it any more."
Reid is airing an ad that highlights her call to privatize Social Security and Medicare.
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