Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle declared Thursday that Nevada and the nation are "going in the wrong direction" under the leadership of Sen. Harry Reid and President Barack Obama.
Just hours before Obama was scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas to rally supporters and raise money for Reid, Angle blamed the Democrats for the state's soaring unemployment rate, which has gone from 4.4 percent to a record 14 percent in Nevada since Reid became the leader of the Senate.
Angle, in an early morning speech to a libertarian forum, also criticized the massive $787 billion stimulus bill, which she contended hasn't led to an economic turnaround but instead to deeper debt.
"You can't spend your way to prosperity or buy your way out of debt," Angle said, speaking to more than 1,000 people gathered for FreedomFest 2010, a three-day meeting of free market proponents at Bally's.
Angle said she and other Republicans are "not without solutions." And she invoked former President Ronald Reagan as the model for spurring economic growth by cutting taxes and reducing federal spending and regulation of industry to allow free market competition to thrive.
"We know we're going in the wrong direction here in Nevada and across the nation," said Angle, whose remarks were met with polite applause, mostly when she suggested cuts in taxes and federal spending. "Reagan said we can be that shining city on the hill and we can."
Angle said one of the first steps would be to "pay back the deficit," which has reached a record $13.1 trillion. Under Reagan, deficits also increased, mostly because of increased defense spending.
Angle's comments comes at a time she's under withering attack from the Reid campaign for several of her public statements, including on job creation and the wisdom of government bailouts, which the Obama administration contends have saved the nation from a deeper recession.
Angle has said it would not be her job as a U.S. senator to create jobs, but instead to create a business friendly economic environment so companies will expand, take risks and make more hires.
The Tea Party-backed Angle also said she would not have done what Reid did by making calls to banks to encourage them to keep funding the new $8.5 billion CityCenter.
The CityCenter complex opened on the Strip last year with the Aria hotel-casino as its centerpiece. The project almost failed before its completion when owner MGM Resorts International was in financial trouble.
Angle defended her CityCenter stance on Thursday, saying government should not pick which companies to save, but instead let free market forces determine which projects survive.
"We stimulate the economy by giving business the confidence to take risks," Angle said in a brief interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal after her speech at FreedomFest. "Shifting the chairs on the deck of the Titanic doesn't save the ship."
Reid touted his successful efforts to rescue CityCenter in campaign commercials, saying he helped save 22,000 jobs, although 12,000 of those were temporary construction jobs. Another 8,000 permanent full- and part-time jobs at CityCenter with another 2,000 jobs at shops in the project.
"Sharron Angle has confirmed that, if elected, she wouldn't lift a finger to fight for the jobs of struggling Nevadans -- this time going so far as to say she wouldn't have even picked up the phone to go to bat for our state's largest employer like Senator Reid did," said Kelly Steele, spokesman for the Reid campaign, in a statement released Wednesday night.
Before CityCenter opened, some casino leaders and business experts questioned whether the project would bring new revenue and new jobs to Las Vegas or simply shift workers from one property to another, but officials nearly unanimously pointed to the project as the best hope for economic revival.
On another issue, the Reid campaign also sharply criticized Angle for saying the government forced BP to set up a "slush fund" of $20 billion to compensate victims of the massive Gulf oil spill.
"The fact that Sharron Angle has sided with BP and says they shouldn't have to guarantee the funds to cleanup their mess, risking a taxpayer bailout, is just the latest example of the extreme and dangerous agenda she would bring to Washington," Steele said in a statement.
Angle was forced Thursday to back off of her BP comments, which she made on a conservative talk show in response to a listener's question.
"Having had some time to think about it, the caller and I shouldn't have used the term 'slush fund.' That was incorrect," Angle said in a statement. "My position is that the creation of this fund to compensate victims was an important first step. BP caused this disaster, and they should pay for it. But there are multiple parties at fault here, and there should be a thorough investigation."
Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@review journal.com or 702-387-2919.