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June 29, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Election results don’t bode well for GOP, future local TV revenue

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Chris Carlson / AP

President Barack Obama waves to the crowd at his election night party Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Chicago. President Obama defeated Republican challenger former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

My five takes on the election results.

1. Local TV stations better get ready for austerity because the gravy train of swing state advertising money might be ending.

Democrats have won the national popular vote in six of the past seven presidential elections. In Nevada, this move to the Democratic column has been more recent but also swifter. President Barack Obama’s comfortable victory here — despite the terrible economy, joblessness and housing market — illustrates that Nevada isn’t much of a presidential swing state anymore. Hence, my suspicion that we won’t continue to be inundated with TV ads every four years.

The demographic trends working against Republicans nationally are even fiercer here. CNN exit polls show that Hispanics constitute 18 percent of the electorate, up from 15 percent in 2008 and 2010, and Obama won nearly 70 percent of those voters. And, every day, more and more Hispanics become citizens or turn 18, and nearly all of them recoil from the GOP’s strident positions on immigration, but also from its conservative economic policies.

2. Organization matters. The Nevada demographic and political trends would be bad enough for Republicans, whose coalition is aging and whose party organization is a dysfunctional clown car. But Democrats counter with a strong organizational machine that registers voters, finds them and gets them to the polls.

Of course, anything can happen — think of war and financial crisis during the Bush years. But these two factors — demographics and organizational mismatch — make it hard to imagine a Republican winning Nevada in future presidential contests.

3. And yet ... Nevada is no California. Republicans still can win statewide with the right candidate. And the inverse is true: The wrong Democratic candidate can lose. As I write this, the race between Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic challenger Rep. Shelley Berkley is still in doubt.

But win or lose, in retrospect, Berkley isn’t looking like a great candidate. The House Ethics Committee unanimously voted to investigate Berkley over her support of a UMC kidney transplant program that stood to benefit her husband, who is a doctor. Say what you want about the allegations, but a House Ethics Committee investigation isn’t a great launching pad for a statewide race.

Same with outgoing Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, who lost a winnable race against Republican incumbent Rep. Joe Heck. Oceguera had all kinds of baggage while Heck has shrewdly created a perception — true or not — that he’s an independent Republican.

4. Great night for Harry Reid. Republicans had a shot to win the majority of the U.S. Senate, but Democrats won almost across the board, including in states that should have been Republican locks, such as Indiana and Missouri. And Reid’s animosity toward Mitt Romney was palpable. His dubious, unsubstantiated claim that Romney paid no income taxes managed to dominate a news cycle or two. After President Obama helped Reid in 2010, Reid returned the favor, and his man won.

5. Democratic agenda? The Democratic base is going to start demanding better schools, health care, social services and other progressive priorities. But they’ll be frustrated. For one thing, Clark County voters failed to support both the school bond measure and the Henderson Library tax Tuesday, indicating that the Nevada antipathy to taxes remains, especially as the economy continues to sputter.

Tax increases at the Legislature require two-thirds majority, which is a difficult hill to climb. Meanwhile, term limits create constant churn and, frankly, chaos at the Legislature, which makes it hard to pass ambitious progressive goals.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Democratic base turn to the initiative process to pass its agenda, assuming it has one.

Like in California. Uh-oh.

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