Sharron Angle vs. Rob Portman

This audio recording of Sharron Angle badmouthing the GOP to a third-party candidate just makes her look good, in my eyes. Ben Smith at Politico picks out the highlights and adds some astute commentary:

It suggests that — at least for the purposes of this conversation with a Tea Party figure — behind the facade of a real grassroots outsider who hates the organized Republican Party is … a real grassroots outsider who hates the organized Republican Party….

Angle is also intensely aware of the difference between a “real” outsider like her, Ken Buck, and Joe Wilson Miller, and an establishmentarian who has adopted the insurgent mantle.

“There may be five or six of us,” she says, listing the Tea Party candidates. “Possibly Marco Rubio is real, but that’s a stretch for me.”

I wanted to compare this to a conversation I had in Columbus, Ohio, last week. After I watched former congressman and former Bush budget director Rob Portman get the endorsement of the Ohio State Medical Association, I asked him which Senators he would see himself working most closely with and having the most in common with. Portman definitely did not say Mike Lee, Ken Buck, or Joe Miller. He said John Cornyn and Mike Crapo.

Both Cornyn and Crapo are conservative, but Cornyn — as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — is almost the definition of establishment. Crapo, for his part, voted against the party leadership in opposition to the Wall Street bailout.

So, along with the bomb-throwing Tea Party brigade that could come to the Senate in January (Lee, Miller, Angle, Buck, Rand Paul, and maybe even Christine O’Donnell) you have a second tier we’ll call the more well-behaved insurgents (Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio), followed by the establishment crew (Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, and Dan Coats). I haven’t figured out how to classify Ron Johnson, Linda McMahon, and Carly Fiorina.

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