Along with a couple of northern Nevada television stations, Politico covered Sharron Angle’s Wednesday speech to supporters and members of the Washoe Republican Women’s club at the Atlantis Casino in Reno. She repeated and further explained her belief that the Department of Education needs to be gradually defunded and criticized Bush era education policy:
“As an educator, I make a direct reference to the Department of Education at the federal level,” she said. “They are a one-size-fits-all policy-making group, passing down policy to the states that fits no one.” She added that the No Child Left Behind law — enacted under President George W. Bush — simply places a “burden on classroom teachers,” particularly since it’s long been underfunded. “We need to keep those monies here in the state,” she said.
Angle also restated her belief that a senator’s job is not to create jobs but encourage an environment in which business can thrive:
“Eighty percent of our economy is with small business – they’re the engine that drives this nation and we need to be building a climate for them, not thinking about whether the senator can create jobs,” Angle said. “We have to challenge Harry Reid. When he thinks as a senator he’s creating jobs, then why are we at 14.2 percent unemployment?”
The Reid campaign turned Angle’s position on jobs and remarks she made about the CityCenter development project in Las Vegas into an attack ad that has been playing statewide:
Angle also talked about her much-discussed position on Social Security, reiterating recent talking points that include saying the program first needs to be protected and then personalized:
In her speech to a mostly older audience, Angle said Social Security should be protected for senior citizens and that eventually people should have the option to “personalize” their retirement savings so they don’t have to worry about the government “raiding” the accounts.
When challenged by a television reporter after her speech, including a question about the change in language from her former campaign website — calling for Social Security to be “transitioned out” — and her current rhetoric, Angle denied that her position has changed, but would not say whether she believes we ought to phase out the program:
“It’s not really a change – a change in language perhaps, but not a change in direction,” she said Wednesday. “The change is just because Harry Reid has so distorted and misinterpreted my words that I’ve had to explain those words, the words are really the explanation of a policy I’ve had from the beginning.” She said the policy is to “pay back” senior citizens for the money they’ve put into the system. Going forward, she would give people the option of leaving that “Social Security-type system and go to something more personalized,” she said. Pressed if she still wants to eventually phase out Social Security, Angle stuck to her talking points that that the entitlement’s trust fund has been pillaged by “Harry Reid and his cronies for over the last 24 years.”
Since winning the primary, Angle has inarguably softened some of her language in an attempt to appeal to centrist and independent voters. Rhetorical tacking to the right to win a party nomination and then sliding to the center to win a general election is not only not a cardinal political sin, it’s a standard page from the playbook. That said, Angle has at times seemed uncertain about where and when to stand firm, and how to smoothly step to the middle, raising questions about both her positions and messaging at a time she can little afford to appear uncertain.
Many of her remarks from yesterday’s event — including the “change in language…not direction” bit — were no doubt prompted by the influence of her new campaign and press team. They reflect a conscious attempt to walk the fine center line on a road that will, Angle hopes, end in victory.