Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009 | 5:14 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- Danny Tarkanian, the Republican who hopes to emerge from a 2010 primary to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said today he would welcome Sen. John Ensign’s support, believes the national Republicans aren’t playing primary favorites and thinks Reid is too optimistic in his hopes for the state’s economic recovery by 2010.
Making the rounds in Washington this week, Tarkanian was heartened after meeting with the National Republican Senatorial Committee that, whispers not withstanding, state Republican Party boss Sue Lowden is not the national party’s overt preference.
“There’s no preference in any way for Sue,” Tarkanian said after his meeting with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the party’s campaign chairman.
Cornyn, he said, told him, “We will help you any way we can, just as we will with the other primary candidates.”
The former UNLV basketball player and son of the college coach and Las Vegas City Councilwoman, also met with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and signed the no-taxes pledge from Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist’s group.
Tarkanian calls himself “clearly a fiscal conservative and a social conservative.”
Tarkanian has become a mini-media star since he outpolled Lowden in a potential primary match up – besting her by double-digits. The same Review-Journal poll had both Lowden and Tarkanian defeating Reid – Tarkanian by 11 percentage points. (A new poll out today showed similar results, with both Lowden and Tarkanian besting Reid.) Reid’s campaign has downplayed the polls, saying their internal numbers show Reid at least polling even.
Republicans had sought to avoid a bruising primary, but without a clear frontrunner, the bruising has begun.
Tarkanian gave a hint of the next months on the Republican primary trail as he burnished his credentials a as tested statewide candidate (he was defeated in 2006 for Secretary of State race) who remained active in the party.
“Sue hasn’t done that. Amodei hasn’t done that. None of the other 9,” he said.
He also said he would welcome Ensign’s support. Other Republicans in Nevada have distanced themselves from Ensign, the party’s once rising leader who earlier this year disclosed an affair with a former campaign staffer. The two are scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to shy away from him,” Tarkanian said. “Senator Ensign is our senior Republican senator here. I don’t see how he’s not going to be part of a Republican trying to unseat the Democrat in the state he represents. I would welcome his support.”
After Reid told reporters today he expects the Nevada economy to begin showing signs of turn around in 2010, Tarkanian, a real estate developer, offered a gloomier assessment.
“You could roll the dice on that one,” Tarkanian said. “We’ve got a long ways to go before it’s turned around. The people I talk with in the business world are very, very pessimistic about the near term.”
Not quite a catchy campaign slogan, but if you’re going to challenge Reid, might as well go for broke.