Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Jon Ralston:

State Republicans embarrass Nevada

Nevada, the Battle Born State that prides itself on a combative, Western attitude toward a sometimes-overbearing federal government, is about to surrender to a miniature, Eastern monarchy.

So one of the most colorful, vibrant states in the country, having asserted itself as a national political player last presidential cycle, will capitulate to white-as-the-driven-snow New Hampshire, relegating itself from pivotal to laughable in just four years. Take the star off the Nevada flag and let it be beautiful blue no more — paint it white.

What is about to occur — Nevada allowing New Hampshire to dictate its role in the presidential nominating process — is an embarrassment to the state and a disaster for the state Republican Party. “I don’t think it’s caving at all,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval as he intimated that the caving was about to begin.

But this was never a fair fight. New Hampshire, led by a grandmaster, was playing chess while Nevada, led by a confederacy of happy quislings, was playing checkers — and not well. Nevada once had Sir Bill (Raggio) of Reno, but King Bill (Gardner) of Concord is more powerful in New Hampshire than — dare I say it? — even Harry Reid is in Nevada.

Secretary of State Gardner was displeased with Nevada’s choice of Jan. 14 — a reasonable choice a week before South Carolina — and so he threatened to go into December, which is the kind of bluff that wouldn’t work in a penny-ante poker game.

But it worked on the Republican rubes here, who were totally unprepared for the onslaught and got no support — from the national committee folks in D.C. or here or, ultimately, from a governor who would rather not engage in this fight as his national profile increases.

I’m not sure what surprises me more — the absence of anger by the GOP elite here or the lunacy of the inmates running the party asylum. As one savvy national political expert said to me this week: “I’ve never seen a state where one party is so overmatched by the other.”

Indeed. Reid reigns supreme over the state Democratic Party, which has marginalized its goofy caucus and actually is dedicated to something that is heretical these days in most parties: Electing candidates.

GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian seemed to be making all the right moves by hiring a professional staff (to oversee the party and the caucus), suggesting same-day registration for the caucus (to cut into the Democrats’ substantial advantage) and eventually supporting moving to mid-January (to maintain Nevada’s early-state status).

But then the slow cave began. Sharron Angle supporters revolted, fearing in their paranoiac frenzy that Democrats would infiltrate the caucus if same-day registration is allowed. Republican National Committeewoman Heidi Smith undermined Tarkanian at every turn and said the state shouldn’t move into January. And now national Committeeman Bob List has folded faster than you can say “Yucca bucks,” doing the bidding of his RNC masters rather than standing up for the state.

Previously supportive (of the caucus date and same-day registration) elected officials now have either gone silent or, in Sandoval’s case, seem all too willing to appease the RNC, which caused this mess with its utter lack of leadership and rules made to be broken. Florida doesn’t get penalized for breaking the rules by jumping forward and receives the national convention. But Nevada gets patronizing nonsense from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and others as Smith and List see VIP boxes in Tampa dancing in their heads.

And New Hampshire, thanks to a god named Gardner and a ferocious media, gets candidates genuflecting and announcing Nevada boycotts. And those outrageous snubs by the contenders surely will be rescinded after the GOP capitulates, and Republicans here will welcome them back as if they had not insulted the state.

Tarkanian, unprepared for this maelstrom, is about to go down with the S.S. GOP this weekend. The Loon Caucus has been calling former Councilman Michael McDonald, who has been hanging around GOP meetings since he lost his elected job and is looking for a way back in.

It’s hard to overstate how ridiculous and pathetic this is. I don’t care if the Republicans want to make fools of themselves — that is their God-given right. But when they take us from third in the nation to fifth in the GOP nominating process — as has been proposed — and when they openly bow to another state’s law (New Hampshire says it must have seven days separation between the next contest), it makes the state look like an unsophisticated backwater. (Insert snide comment here.)

On Saturday, I will mark 27 years in Nevada, and I couldn’t be happier that I chose to stay. I have pride in my state, quirks and warts and all. Why doesn’t anyone else?

It almost makes me want to move to ... New Hampshire.

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