In a private meeting secretly recorded last week, Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle expressed contempt for the national Republican party and urged a Tea Party candidate running against her to drop out of the race, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
Angle pulled off an upset victory in the June Republican primary with the help of the California-based Tea Party Express, but the Republican establishment has since supported her candidacy. Yet in a meeting last Wednesday with Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian and Tea Party of Nevada Chairman Sid James, Angle said, "The machinery that has endorsed me, they have no choice... it's me or [Harry] Reid."
Angle continued, "The Republicans have lost their standards, they've lost their principles... Really that's why the machine in the Republican Party is fighting against me... They have never really gone along with lower taxes and less government."
The Republican candidate bemoaned the intrusion of the party establishment into her race and said they should "leave me alone."
A tape of the 38-minute conversation was provided to Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun by Ashjian, the Tea Party candidate running against Angle and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Ashjian reportedly said he recorded the meeting in case it was later misrepresented by the media.
As Angle expressed her disapproval of the national Republican party, she urged Ashjian to drop out of the race.
"I believe you can do some real harm, not to Harry Reid but to me," she said. "I'm not sure you can win, and I'm not sure I can win if you're hurting my chance and that's the part that scares me."
Recent polls show Angle and Reid locked in a tight race. A Mason-Dixon poll from late last month showed Reid and Angle tied, 43 percent to 43 percent. This poll and others show Ashjian siphoning off a small fraction of the vote, presumably from conservatives who would otherwise support Angle. The CBS News Campaign 2010 map shows that the Nevada Senate race is a toss up.
The "only thing that's different between you and I is I guess I was pragmatic enough to know... that third parties can't get traction," Angle said to the Tea Party candidate. "Just show me what the rules are and I'll work with it... the rules are there are Democrats and Republicans...so I moved myself up within the Republican ranks... They have no choice, I'm the only game in town."
The Reid campaign released a statement blasting Angle's remarks as "an act of supreme hypocrisy... attempting to cut a deal with Ashjian to get him off the ballot, and openly trashing the very same national Republicans that are supporting her candidacy."
A spokesperson for Angle, meanwhile, defended her comments.
"Sharron expressed what many working families in Nevada and across the country are feeling," spokesperson Jarrod Agen said. "They are angry with Harry Reid, they are angry with Washington DC, and they want blunt plain-spoken leaders who are willing to shake things up."
In the meeting, Angle also remarked on the other Tea Party-backed Republican candidates running this year. She said she would "shake this mess up" in Washington, D.C. and upon her arrival in the capitol, "there may be five or six of us... maybe Joe Miller [Alaska], Ken Buck [Colorado], Christine O'Donnell [Delaware]."
She added that she did not necessarily include the Florida GOP Senate candidate as an authentic outsider: "Marco Rubio, but that's a stretch for me," she said.
After Ashjian said O'Donnell doesn't have a chance of winning in Delaware, Angle said, "Well, I think she's real."CBSNews.com Special Report: Campaign 2010
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.