The phones were ringing off the hook early Wednesday at Sharron Angle's campaign headquarters.
Cathie Profant, the lone volunteer in the office, scrambled but couldn't answer them all.
"If I were any better, I'd be two people," Profant joked when one caller asked how she felt the day after Angle, the Tea Party favorite, shocked the Republican establishment and ran away with the GOP nomination in the U.S. Senate contest. Angle will face Democratic incumbent Harry Reid in the fall.
To beat the powerful Senate majority leader, Angle must do more than just double her force of hundreds of volunteer supporters who helped her mom-and-pop campaign win 40 percent of the vote in a highly competitive primary, strategists inside and outside her campaign say.
National and state GOP leaders promised Wednesday to send in within 10 days the reinforcements --Â and cash --Â that Angle will need to run a professional operation and fend off a barrage of Democratic attacks.
"We think this election in Nevada is going to be as much a referendum on Barack Obama and Harry Reid as anything else," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said before praising Angle as the sort of conservative candidate that anti-big government voters are looking for in 2010.
"The fact that she won the primary tells you she can win," Steele said when asked about Angle's chances against Reid. "What Angle brings to this race is going to be dynamic. It's energizing and reflective of the grass-roots views across the country and especially in Nevada."
In an indication Angle isn't yet ready for the onslaught, she went into bunker mode the day after her victory. She shut down her website, except for a fundraising plea, ignored interview requests and avoided questions. Meanwhile, the Democrats and the Reid campaign unleashed a stream of attacks aimed at giving her a shock-and-awe jolt and painting her as a fringe candidate.
"Sharron Angle is so far right, it's just plain wrong," Reid campaign manager Brandon Hall wrote in a statement. Hall said she wants to cut Social Security benefits, reduce regulation of Wall Street and repeal the health care law, among other proposals that include doing away with the federal income tax code.
Angle's campaign ignored the missives. The state and national Republican Party's efforts to defend her amounted to dismissing Reid as desperate to change the subject because people are so unhappy with Nevada's 14 percent unemployment and record high home foreclosures.
In Washington, the Republicans' top Senate strategist cited polls showing the Reid race is a toss-up and he remains unpopular despite spending $10 million to promote his campaign.
"I don't think this is any day for Harry to be giddy or popping champagne corks," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in an online interview with ABC News and The Washington Post. "I think he is in very deep trouble."
Reid campaign staffers seemed confident that Nevadans would give him a fifth term. They plan today to release two new positive TV ads, allowing the senator to remain above the fray.
Also, President Bill Clinton, a popular Democratic figure who won Nevada in 1992 and 1996, is to have a pro-Reid rally this evening at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have visited Nevada recently, too, appearing with Reid at official events that serve to highlight what he has done for voters.
"Senator Reid looks forward to discussing his record of creating jobs in Nevada by developing the state's clean energy industry, helping keep people in their homes by pressuring banks to work with Nevada homeowners, fighting to protect consumers from the abuses of Wall Street, and making health care affordable for all Nevadans," Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele wrote in an e-mail.
On the Republican side, national leaders said they would offer whatever money and organizational help Angle needs. The RNC plans to work with the state party to open offices here as well.
Still, it remains unclear whether Republicans will unify around Angle, a former Reno assemblywoman who was sometimes the lone "no" vote against taxes and other bills that didn't meet her fiscal and constitutional tests and who often angered GOP establishment leaders.
Former Gov. Bob List, the Republican national committeeman, praised Angle as a tireless campaigner who had tapped into this year's voter anger at Washington.
"Sharron is a populist," List said, speaking in a conference call with the RNC's Steele. "She appeals to people from top to bottom. Keep your eye on her. She's on fire."
But state Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, a Reno Republican who nearly lost to Angle in 2008, has a grudge. He warned a few weeks ago that some moderate Republicans might help Reid if the arch conservative Angle won. He refused to say Wednesday whether he would oppose Angle.
"I don't share some of her ideology. I will have to measure that fact in November," Raggio said.
For now, however, Angle's campaign seems a bit overwhelmed. Although the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth paid for more than $1 million in advertising to promote Angle, they were prohibited from coordinating with her campaign or providing direct help.
Cornyn said he called Angle on Tuesday morning and got her voice mail. A National Republican Senatorial Committee official said his office did finally connect with Angle's campaign, but he refused to release details.
"Senator Reid and his campaign have already made clear that the only way they can win is by getting down in the mud and playing dirty, so we have no intention of broadcasting our playbook to his team," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said. "But let there be no mistaking that Sharron Angle has the full weight and resources of Senate Republicans firmly behind her, and we will assist her campaign in any way that we can.
"This is one of the most important Senate races in the country, and we are committed to helping her win in November so that Nevadans finally have the fresh leadership they deserve."
For Reid, the day after the primary largely was business as usual, although he began at the Democratic National Committee, where he sat for quick interviews with Nevada TV stations. An aide could not say whether Reid was taking part in day-after strategizing for his re-election.
Republican Sen. John Ensign offered Angle some unsolicited advice Wednesday.
He said Angle must brace herself and "become very disciplined in her message."
"She is going to be scrutinized a lot more closely, and she will be under attack from a lot of different angles," said Ensign, under scrutiny himself after he confessed to an affair. "Labor unions will spend huge amounts. Senator Reid will spend huge amounts. Other special interest groups will attack her. She is going to have to work harder than she has ever worked before, and she is a hardworking woman."
As for the Democratic incumbent, Ensign said, "Don't count Senator Reid out. He is very tough. But at the same time there is such an anti-Washington fervor out there that you can tap into that, especially because Senator Reid is the majority leader so he represents Washington.
"This is the year you can upset the majority leader of the United States Senate. Absolutely."
Stephens Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report. Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.