Sharron Angle's announcement Wednesday that she is running for Congress was met with unopen arms from the Republican establishment and open delight from Democrats who sank her U.S. Senate bid last year.
Angle became the first candidate to enter the contest to replace Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., setting the stage for a hard-knuckled primary that could attract a crowded field of contenders.
Republicans were relieved, on the one hand, that Angle decided not to challenge Heller in the race for Sen. John Ensign's Senate seat.
Yet Republicans fear Angle could win the House primary and then proceed to lose the general election, which she did in 2010 against Sen. Harry Reid.
"When you're Sharron Angle and you make an announcement, it says something about your candidate when more Democrats are happy than Republicans," said Robert Uithoven, a GOP consultant. "She's a real risk for Republicans."
Not so, say her campaign and conservative supporters.
"She wouldn't enter the race if she didn't think she could win it," said Will Rasavage, Angle's press secretary.
The Tea Party favorite, who embraces her outsider status to rally a conservative base, said she is running for the U.S. House because she isn't finished fighting the policies of President Barack Obama and Democrats.
"The effort to bring the people's voice back into government didn't end in 2010," Angle, 61, said in a YouTube video that showed her sitting at a kitchen table, holding a coffee mug .
Angle's announcement came a day after Heller said he is running for Ensign's Senate seat, a decision immediately embraced by Republican leaders.
Angle did not need the backing of Republican leaders to win last year's crowded Senate GOP primary, defeating establishment pick Sue Lowden, whose campaign was managed by Uithoven.
The former Reno assemblywoman with a strong anti-tax record raised $28 million and gained a national conservative following in her bid to unseat Reid, the Senate majority leader. His campaign painted her as too extreme and uncaring. She lost the election by 6 percentage points.
"Sharron Angle's extremist views are so far out of touch with middle-class Nevada families that they're rightly labeled radical and right wing," said Jesse Ferguson, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Despite the 2010 campaign damage, Angle is better positioned to run for the House than in another statewide Senate race. The 2nd Congressional District covers Washoe County, where she lives, and all of rural Nevada. That is largely GOP territory where she beat Reid.
Also, Angle nearly defeated Heller in a three-way GOP primary in 2006, losing by 421 votes.
Angle remains a darling of anti-tax groups and the Tea Party movement, which has pushed GOP leaders in Congress to cut spending and lower the growing U.S. debt and deficit.
The Tea Party Express, a money-raising arm of the movement, endorsed Angle in 2010 and ran hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV ads backing her. She probably would get its support in 2012, too, although the group isn't endorsing yet.
"The Tea Party Express team obviously loves Sharron Angle, and we are excited for her that she has decided to run for Congress," said Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the group. "We think it is great that a true conservative has jumped into this race."
The anti-tax Club for Growth's political action committee helped raise $1 million for Angle's 2006 House bid. It backed her in 2010, too .
David Keating, executive director of the Club for Growth, said it's too soon for endorsements but the group remains enamoured of Angle because of her voting record in the Assembly and fiscally conservative campaign positions.
Angle also has a donor list of about 250,000 people to tap.
"The job still needs doing," Angle wrote in a fundraising e-mail Wednesday that led off by noting, "Harry Reid still rules the U.S. Senate" and is "holding up government spending cuts."
"We can't simply celebrate our victories from 2010," Angle said.
Most GOP officials are pushing Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki to run as the best chance to beat Angle in the primary and appeal to more moderate general election voters in 2012. Krolicki has won statewide office four times, including two terms as state treasurer.
After endorsing Heller for Senate, Krolicki said he would decide his future within weeks.
Ryan Erwin, who would run Krolicki's campaign, said internal polls show he could beat Angle and others handily.
"If Brian gets into this, he can absolutely win this," Erwin said. "The political decision has been made. But it's a personal question for him and his family now, whether running is worth the personal sacrifice."
Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei has told associates he plans to step down and then run for Heller's seat. The former Carson City senator could compete with Krolicki for GOP establishment support.
Reno state Sen. Greg Brower, a former U.S. attorney appointed to finish state Sen. Bill Raggio's term, may run, too.
Former USS Cole commander Kirk Lippold, a conservative favorite, also said he could get into the race.
On the Democratic side, State Treasurer Kate Marshall has been mentioned as a potential candidate. Assemblywoman Debbie Smith's name also has been floated as well as that of Jill Derby, who lost twice to Heller, in 2006 and 2008.