PLAYING THE ‘GIRL’ CARD?…. Sharron Angle, the extremist Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, has generated a fair amount of controversy for herself. Between her radical policy positions, offensive comments, and reluctance to answer questions, Angle has become one of the most outlandish Senate candidates in years.

Not surprisingly, her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), has done what any candidate would do in his situation — he’s letting voters know about Angle’s extremism. Yesterday, the Republican tried out a new argument.

GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle claimed that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) aimed to “hit the girl” in the pair’s competitive race for his Senate seat, using the phrase in two separate interviews on Wednesday.

“It is also the corruption in Washington, DC that is characterized by Harry Reid, lets-make-a-deal cronyism, politics as usual, and so we’re saying dirty tricks Harry is up to his dirty tricks one more time and he’s just trying to hit the girl,” Angle said on the Alan Stock Show.

“You know, isolate that Sharron Angle, marginalize her and then demonize her,” she said in a separate appearance on the Heidi Harris Show. “And he has been doing that to me and what we need to do is say, ‘you know Harry, it’s not going to do you any good to hit the girl.’”

I’m trying to wrap my head around this one. Two major party candidates, four months before the election, are criticizing each other in public. This is an example of the male candidate “trying to hit the girl”? Seriously?

This is arguably the most anti-feminist political tack I’ve seen in a very long time — not just because women aren’t “girls,” but also because it’s predicated on the notion that women candidates aren’t strong enough to be scrutinized. Angle seems to be arguing that women should be held to an easier standard — she’s “the girl,” so don’t be too forceful in letting the public know what she believes. How absurd.

I suppose I understand the underlying strategy here. Angle’s campaign wants Reid to think twice before going on the offensive. “If we’re too critical,” Reid is supposed to think, “it might look misogynistic.”

This whole line of thinking just isn’t healthy. Angle’s a candidate for U.S. Senate with a radical background and agenda. If she’s afraid of scrutiny, she shouldn’t be in the race.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.