Republican Sharron Angle said Saturday she won't change her staunch conservative views to win the U.S. Senate race, although she acknowledged softening some of her rhetoric to avoid giving Sen. Harry Reid and other Democrats more sound bites to attack.
"I'm not made over," Angle said in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "There are people who would like to see different things come out of me, but I am who I am."
The former Reno assemblywoman said some of her new advisers have even suggested that she look more serious for TV interviews. But she has told them she can't change her personal style or positions.
"Some people do say, 'Don't smile so much,' '' Angle said, breaking out into laughter. "I don't know how to do that. This is me."
More seriously, Angle's critics have accused the Tea Party favorite of undergoing a political makeover since her June 8 GOP primary victory to appeal to moderates and independents in the general election.
For example, she relaunched her website after scrubbing it of her more controversial positions, such as eliminating the Education Department and developing Yucca Mountain as a nuclear reprocessing site.
The Reid campaign has accused her of trying to hide from her old positions.
Angle, during a 10-minute interview on the sidelines of the Nevada Republican Party Convention, said she still believes in those things, which she says will help cut federal spending and create jobs.
"It's about jobs and homes, jobs and homes. These are Nevada issues and they go across party lines. I don't have to speak from a Republican perspective. I speak from a Nevada perspective," said Angle, 60, whose family moved to the state when she was 3 years old.
After she won the primary, Angle said she immediately moved to expand her campaign from a grass-roots operation to a professional shop that could raise millions of dollars and get her message out.
"We put up a splash page on my website saying, 'Send money,' " Angle said. "Then we went to Washington to tell people, 'This is who I am. I'll always be this way. I'd like to have your help. But we know Nevada.' "
Angle's Washington trip was met with public praise by Republican leaders but also private skepticism that the conservative Tea Party pick could take on the powerful Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate.
Angle said her campaign quickly hired John Brabender, a prominent GOP consultant, to put together her TV ads, but only after receiving assurances he would not try to make her into something she isn't. Brabender of Washington, D.C., handled media for conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
"John told me, 'What I realized about Tom is I have to let Tom be Tom,' and we said, 'Bingo, you're our man,' " Angle said. "So the person we brought on board was a person who said, 'I'm going to let Sharron Angle be Sharron Angle.' "
Still, Angle acknowledged she has toned down her words after being pummeled for saying things such as wanting to "take out" Harry Reid in the same breath that she mentions that people angry at government have "Second Amendment remedies" available, or the right to bear arms.
"As far as a makeover and refining the message, Harry Reid has pretty much forced that when he sound bites me," Angle said. "I have to be very careful about how I phrase things. I can no longer say words like 'take out.' Those have now gone out of my vocabulary because he has misinterpreted what I meant by those words. I don't say 'take out.' I say 'defeat.' It means the same thing. And my people know defeat means the same thing. I don't have to use our colloquialisms to get my point across.
"They also know that I'm a person who has done what I have said I would do, and I will continue to do what I say I'll do."
Angle said she also is not calling herself a Republican as much now or using as much red-meat rhetoric while campaigning, although she still has harsh words for Reid and the Democratic agenda.
"I need to appeal to a broad base. And you know our language in Republican circles is not the same words that appeal to a broader base," Angle said. "I'm not going to say that I'm a Republican all the time, because I'm trying to talk about independents, too. If they cared about being Republicans they would be one. If conservative Democrats cared about being Republicans they would be one. I am changing my speech to, 'I am an economic conservative fiscal person.' They understand that.
"The economy is the issue," she added, noting the top theme of her campaign through Nov. 2. "The economy is about us here. Our jobs. Can we stay in our homes? Those are the issues."
Angle noted that Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 14 percent as well as record home foreclosure and bankruptcy rates.
She said Reid and the Democrats have not solved the problem, which is why she said his campaign is calling her extreme and out of touch.
"It's not a Republican problem. It's a Nevada problem," Angle said. "And we lay that at Harry Reid's doorstep and for good reason. He has not brought forth one policy in the last year that has eliminated unemployment. He has not brought forth one policy that has turned our housing market right side up.
"We're the highest in the nation in bankruptcies. These are real people. Yet he's unwilling to let big banks go into bankruptcy. He's willing to let me and every other Nevadan suffer bankruptcy, but not big banks -- they need a bailout. Harry Reid is going out on every other tangent to keep from addressing our jobs and our homes. He's not wanting to address those. And this is what the race is about: He's failed."
Reid and President Barack Obama, who visited Las Vegas for the third time in a year to campaign for the senator this past week, contend the Democrats inherited the financial mess from the Bush administration. And they say the bailouts saved the economy from a deeper recession and the $800 billion-plus stimulus has saved thousands of jobs.
Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.