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Angle’s legacy

Nevada Republicans, have you learned nothing from Sharron Angle?

If Angle did nothing else (and she really didn’t), she proved a campaign characterized by secrecy, infighting among allies and paranoid fear of “voter fraud” don’t add up to a winning strategy.

This time around, the fight is over same-day voter registration at Nevada’s upcoming Republican presidential caucus. There are some in the state GOP — including some former Angle campaign workers — who strongly oppose Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian’s suggestion that Republicans allow voters to sign up on the day of the caucus. They fear infiltration from Democrats and unions, who will ostensibly send people to skew the party’s caucus to a candidate with the least likely chance of beating President Obama.

So, Michelle Bachmann has a path to victory in Nevada after all.

To be clear, nobody is talking about same-day voter registration for an actual election. What we’re talking about here is registering the same day you attend a party caucus, which is held not only to indicate support of a particular candidate, but also to rally the base, raise money for the cause and generate excitement for Republicans going into the election season.

Tarkanian knows Democrats used the same-day caucus registration in 2008 to sign up about 30,000 new voters, nearly half the 65,000-voter advantage they currently enjoy. That year, then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were battling it out for the hearts and minds of delegates.

This year, the momentum is on the Republican side, with a Democratic incumbent besieged by a bad economy, high unemployment, and a burgeoning scandal over an ill-advised subordinated loan of more than $500 million to now-bankrupt solar power equipment manufacturer Solyndra. At least eight candidates — some of whom appear sane and electable — are vying for the Republican nomination.

So, naturally, now’s the time you would want to throw cold water on voter enthusiasm by preventing people from signing up as Republicans, even though widespread fraud would be easy to detect and difficult to accomplish. It’s enough to make one wonder if the real infiltration hasn’t already happened, with saboteurs stirring up opposition to the same-day registration idea in order to keep Republicans from matching Democratic registration gains! Now that would be really insidious!

In order to buy into the opposition, one would have to assume that not only is Tarkanian blithely unconcerned about fraud (or perhaps a party to it) but that all supportive members of the Republican executive committee who support the idea are, too. You have to believe top Republicans are either stupid or craven destroyers of their own party’s chances in 2012! It’s that kind of paranoia that hobbled the Angle campaign and kept the real fight inside her ranks, rather than directed at still-Sen. Harry Reid.

But thus far, the paranoia is winning. The state party did not include the same-day registration option in its caucus plan sent to the Republican national committee. Instead, it will be debated at a state committee meeting Oct. 22, with a change still possible after that.

“I know we have the right values and morals,” Tarkanian says. “It’s time we move into the now.” By that, she means high-tech voter registration and — here’s a novel idea — keeping the names, addresses and emails of all caucusgoers, not just the ones ultimately selected to be delegates. (That’s right; the state GOP failed to retain that information in 2008.)

Nothing in the same-day proposal says Republicans can’t engage in other, more traditional registration efforts leading up to the caucus. Tarkanian says she’s planning outreach to independent voters who may be willing to give the GOP another look, and adds that the party is raising money to register new Republicans. Same-day caucus registration is merely a part of that, albeit the part that riles the paranoid among the base.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/SteveSebelius or reach him at 387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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