Amid the crowd of CPAC attendees flooding the hallway of the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Md., stands Sharron Angle, a former Tea Party darling who rose to prominence in 2010 when she ran—unsuccessfully—to unseat Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. When asked what she’s doing here at CPAC, she says, in a downtrodden tone, “not much.” A more accurate answer might have been that she is attempting to cling to relevance.
Angle is short and meek and fighting off an illness, so her face is drained of color. When people aren’t walking past her briskly on their way to see the likes of Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker, she is literally being bumped into. Here among so many genuine conservative celebrities, Angle is almost invisible.
While social media and the 24-hour news cycle has made it possible for has-beens like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump to constantly stay in the news with their every Tweet and Facebook posting, things aren’t so easy for those who never quite made it to that level of celebrity.
Angle has a mere 9,431 Twitter followers and has barely made a headline since she lost her 2010 race. For Angle, CPAC is perhaps the only place in America where it’s possible that she will be recognized and remembered fondly for her campaign. It’s also the only place where she could float the idea of running again and not fear being laughed at.
Angle, a lifelong Nevada resident, began her career in public office in 1992 when she was elected to the school board in Nye County. Six years later, in 1998, she became an Assemblywoman in the legislature, and remained there in 2006. She first ran for Congress in 2006, but lost. It wasn’t until 2010 that Angle became—briefly—famous by finding herself in the good graces of the Tea Party with her challenge to Harry Reid. But despite record fundraising and the rise of the grassroots right, Angle lost—mostly due to the fact that she kept putting her foot in her mouth. In one of her most memorable moments, she told a group of Latino students: “Some of you look a little more Asian to me.”
Similar to her three-day stint at CPAC, for the last five years Angle has been doing “not much.”
“I have a Super PAC,” she tells me. “OurVoicePAC. We’ve been doing independent expenditures in races across the country. And then, I’m President of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies…What we are trying to do is make sure that Republicans understand the brand, especially Republican politicians.”
A man walks over and interrupts us… to say he needs the chair Angle is sitting on, and could we please move?
“I suppose I’m always flattered and surprised that people still remember me here,” she says. “It’s almost five years later and people still remember me on sight.”
“I’m a hero to them. I think because they understood the courage that it took to run against Harry Reid and that machine. And I think also because of the way the press was so unrelentingly hostile toward me and I was still able to stand and continue to stand.”
Here at CPAC, Angle is part of the much-loathed press as a co-host of Conservative Commandos, a radio program billed as being “For those who believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the freedom in which to express those core values…Where the newsmakers go to be heard.”
Angle sits behind the black rope in the Conservative Commandos booth with her co-host Anna Little, another failed Congressional candidate, from New Jersey. With one hand, she clutches tightly a microphone that reads “WNJC 1360”. With the other, she fiddles with a gold chain around her neck. She doesn’t say much, and doesn’t look that interested.
But Angle says she likes her job on the radio. She does it “just to kind of keep in the game, you know? You need to be familiar with the press, especially when you run for office or you have a public persona. It’s good to stay in contact with the press.”
Throughout the course of several conversations, Angle expresses disdain for the press but acknowledges the importance of being someone the press cares about. She repeatedly introduces me to people she knows and seems flattered and somewhat scared that anyone has chosen to write about her here among so many other possible subjects.
Angle tells me she will “probably” run for office again. “We need people who are willing to run for office who are courageous and who will brave the mainstream media, the folks that have a tendency to say ‘gotcha!’”
Asked what she would run for, she says, “There’s several things in my state that are open, we all have a state representative and our legislature and a state senator and those are both open in 2016, we also have a congressional seat that comes open every two years and then, of course, Harry Reid’s running again. I took him on once.”
Asked if she would take him on again, she says, “I don’t know. My husband would rather I didn’t.”