Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- Ron Paul supporters aren’t holding back (9-1-2008)
- Ron Paul campaign dominates convention (4-27-2008)
- 11th hour, Ron Paul holds to his maverick strategy (1-16-2008)
Welcome to the spotlight, Sue Lowden.
Not long ago the former chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party looked like the clear favorite to emerge from the GOP field and face Sen. Harry Reid in next year’s election.
Then came last week.
John Chachas, a Republican Wall Street investment banker who has committed $1 million to his campaign to unseat Reid, showed he’s willing to spend the money, hiring top-tier national and state political talent.
Then Lowden laughed at a conservative radio host’s suggestion that Reid campaign ads exaggerate a 1981 incident in which a bomb was found under the family’s station wagon. Reid was Gaming Commission chairman. Lowden, a television anchor in Las Vegas at the time, said she couldn’t recall the incident.
Reid’s campaign pounced, spawning a round of media checking that unearthed police reports and old newspaper clippings proving police took the threat to Reid seriously. The coverage fed a narrative Reid has to like — he was so tough cleaning up the gambling industry that someone tried to kill him.
A Ron Paul activist, still bitter about the aborted Republican state convention last year, announced he was forming a political action committee to defeat Lowden.
To top it off, Friday offered a Geraldo Rivera-worthy media moment, as Sun columnist Jon Ralston described it. An unopened ballot box from that Republican convention had been found in a Reno casino cage. It was unveiled Friday at Reno Republican headquarters, with Chachas in attendance.
The incident dredged up memories of the convention where Republican leadership, including Lowden, had to be escorted out to protect them from angry Ron Paul people, who believed they were poised to send supporters of the libertarian-leaning congressman to the Republican National Convention before the party’s establishment abruptly shut down the convention.
The general election is a year off and the usual caveats apply. There’s plenty of time for any candidate to recover, or stumble, before June’s primary. Reid is faring poorly in polls and the state’s anemic economy is showing no sign of recovery, which hurts incumbents.
But Lowden’s rough week highlights Reid’s biggest advantage, besides his prodigious campaign cash: Republicans failed to field an “A list” candidate to challenge him.
Lowden had been one of the top-tier candidates, along with Danny Tarkanian, a businessman best known for being the son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.
Her campaign said it’s far too early to count her out.
“There are a lot of people talking about Sue Lowden right now, and that’s OK,” said Robert Uithoven, a Nevada political adviser to Lowden.
He said the attention reflects the fact that the Reid campaign views her as the biggest threat.
“When Reid advisers talk about vaporizing his opponent, it’s clear who he’s talking about. Sen. Reid is focused on Sue Lowden, and views her as the biggest threat to his power and prestige,” Uithoven said.
He maintains that a competitive primary is good for a party, especially when it’s trying to redefine itself and rebuild.
Ryan Erwin, a political consultant hired by Chachas last week, said his candidate is “in it to win it.”
“Sue Lowden is a front-runner, so is Danny Tarkanian,” he said. “I think you put us up there in that conversation, along with (former Assemblywoman) Sharon Angle and (State Sen.) Mark Amodei. There’s a pathway for five candidates to win that race right now.”
The more the candidates fight and falter, the better the news is for Reid.