Las Vegas (CNN) - Critics of Senate candidate Sharron Angle say the Tea Party-backed candidate is too far outside the mainstream to win a general election, but one of Angle's top campaign consultants is instead comparing her to conservative-favorite Ronald Reagan.
Angle is locked in a tough contest for Nevada's Republican senate primary that has been described, by one campaign, as a slugfest.
She is among the top three Republicans vying for the nomination in a field that includes businesswoman and former Nevada GOP state party chairwoman Sue Lowden and businessman and former basketball star Danny Tarkanian. The winner of Tuesday's primary will go on to challenge the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, in the November election.
Angle is staunchly endorsed by the Tea Party Express, which has traveled the country espousing conservative ideals, and the Club for Growth, an anti-tax, fiscally conservative political group. The Tea Party Express says it has spent $550,000 supporting Angle's campaign. And in a statement released Tuesday, the group pledged to spend "$1 million+" more on Angle, or whoever wins the nomination, as part of their "Defeat Harry Reid" campaign.
Brian Seitchik, Tarkanian campaign manager, cast those endorsements as a hijacking.
"The Tea Party Express corporation and Club for Growth…have basically taken over Sharron's campaign" Seitchik claimed to CNN.
Critics say Angle is too conservative to win a general election contest, even in a year where the four-term Reid is seen as politically vulnerable. Independents play a major role in Nevada statewide elections. Reid himself has said he most wants to face Angle in a general election, confident she lacks broad appeal.
Critics cite some of Angle's beliefs, claiming her positions will turn off large blocs of voters - including the notion that she wants to eliminate Social Security. Angle's campaign denies that, though the candidate herself calls it a broken system and she has openly stated that she would like to tinker with it. Angle is also in favor of a flat tax and would like to eliminate the Department of Education.
Larry Hart, a consultant to the Angle campaign handling media relations, explained those views to CNN.
"Sharron Angle is very much in the mainstream of conservative teaching," he said.
Hart goes on to compare Angle to other well-known conservatives currently serving in the Senate – and arguably the most popular conservative from the past.
"Certainly she's a strong conservative," Hart said about Angle. "But so is Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. So is Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina…they're very popular senators in their home states."
Hart later compared Angle to the nation's 40th president, telling CNN, "In the very sense of the essence of what Ronald Reagan was, when he said in his inaugural address, 'Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.' And in that sense, she's in the mold of Ronald Reagan."
Regarding concern that Angle wants eliminate Social Security, Hart said, "She is for finding ways to make the social security system solvent."
"There are many, many ways to do that…first of all preserving social security for those who are giving it and for those who are about to get it."
Regarding Angle's hope to eliminate the Department of Education, Hart told CNN, "Many conservatives find the education department to be of little value to education."
Angle's campaign website says the candidate is "passionate about education," but that "The Department of Education is unconstitutional and should not be involved in education, at any level." It claims the federal agency has "given Americans a one-size-fits-all policy and programs that fit no one."
As for claims that Angle is too conservative to win the senate race, Hart invoked another Angle/Reagan comparison.
"In 1980, the exact same argument was made. George H.W. Bush is a moderate. He's the only one that can beat Jimmy Carter, because he can attract independents and Democrats. Ronald Reagan is this hard right old guy and he can't.'"