- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2010

Buoyed by endorsements from top conservative groups, former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle has vaulted into the lead just days ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary for the right to face off against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to a poll released Thursday.

Endorsed by the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth among others, Mrs. Angle now leads party establishment favorite and former Nevada Republican Party Chairman Sue Lowden, according to David Paleologos, who conducted the poll for the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

The possible unseating of a Democrat regarded by many as the second-most-powerful politician in the country has drawn attention to a GOP nomination contest that, in the latest poll of 400 likely GOP voters, has the top three contestants in what amounts to a statistical tie, Mr. Paleologos told The Washington Times.

Despite giving Mrs. Angle the edge for the nomination, Nevada Republicans think Mrs. Lowden has the best chance of defeating Mr. Reid - a view also held by the GOP establishment in the state.

Mrs. Angle successfully blocked a proposed $800 million tax increase beginning in 2003 and dipped into her own pocket to fight the issue all the way to the Supreme Court - and won.

The new Suffolk poll shows Mrs. Angle at 33 percent, followed by Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian at 26 percent and Mrs. Lowden, a former state senator, with 25 percent. Several other GOP primary candidates registered with 4 percent or less.

Although accustomed to prevailing in close general elections, Mr. Reid has a harder-than-usual road this year, garnering under 45 percent in hypothetical matchups against his leading Republican challengers in recent polls.

But Mr. Reid, with $9 million in cash on hand according to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, has more than 30 times as much to spend on the election than does either Mrs. Angle or Mrs. Lowden.

Mrs. Angle held a slight lead in “voter intensity,” an important indicator of voter behavior.

“Angle has a slightly higher voter intensity than the others do,” Mr. Paleologos said, noting that 53 percent of respondents said they would definitely vote for her, with 33 percent saying probably and 12 percent saying they might change their minds.

Mrs. Angle’s campaign website boasts endorsements of her by the Tea Party Express, conservative commentator Mark Levin, the Club for Growth, the Concerned Women for America Political Action Committee, Gun Owners of America and “more than 25 others” as well as a “Grade A rating from the National Rifle Association Victory Fund.”

Despite her falling poll numbers, Mrs. Lowden is still seen by Republican voters as the candidate with the best chance in November. When GOP voters were asked which candidate has a better chance of defeating Mr. Reid, Mrs. Lowden at 33 percent led again, with Mrs. Angle second at 27 percent and Mr. Tarkanian, a college basketball star and son of the state’s most famous basketball coach, at 23 percent.

“The swirling political winds of Tarkanian’s personal popularity and Lowden’s general election viability against the headwinds of Angle’s momentum make this a legitimate three-horse race,” Mr. Paleologos said.