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June 30, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Republicans nationally can learn from Nevada GOP … at least in some respects


Leila Navidi

Mitt Romney supporters watch Romney give his concession speech during a GOP election night watch party at the Venetian in Las Vegas on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

Election Night 2012 Across the Country

Supporters of President Barack Obama Shauna Harry, left, and Alana Hearn celebrate by leaping in the air at New York State Democratic Headquarters following Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Launch slideshow »
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Tuesday was a disaster for the national Republican Party, as President Barack Obama won an election that secured a new governing majority and the Senate remained in Harry Reid’s hands. Elizabeth Warren, pot and gay marriage were just salt in the wounds.

In Nevada, however, it wasn’t so bad. Just as Democrats created a sea wall here against the Republican 2010 wave, so, too, did Republicans hold their own this time, despite being outnumbered by 90,000 registered voters.

Sen. Dean Heller won, giving him a full term after his appointment by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Rep. Joe Heck was easily re-elected in what should have been a closely contested Congressional district. Republicans narrowly lost their bid to take control of the state Senate, but they can take solace in knocking off the incoming Democratic Assembly Speaker, Marcus Conklin.

The formula isn’t that complicated, but it might be worth a look by Beltway Republicans.

“A little moderation goes a long way,” says Pete Ernaut, the Republican lobbyist and former chief of staff for late Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Former Republican State Sen. Warren Hardy, now a lobbyist, has been saying since the 2008 debacle that Nevada is a Democratic state, as evidenced by the lopsided registration numbers, and so Republicans must appeal to independents and even some Democrats to win. He told me Tuesday is just more evidence for his argument, which would now seem to apply to large swaths of the country, not just Nevada.

“Gov. Brian Sandoval is the template for successful Republicans in the state of Nevada,” said state Sen. Michael Roberson, the incoming minority leader who managed the GOP Senate effort.

Sandoval ran hard to the right in 2010, which was the rational response to that electorate, but has governed as a moderate. He allowed the continuation of taxes that were about to die and has announced he’ll do so again in the next legislative session.

Republican elites also have avoided the full crazy on immigration, unlike Arizona Republicans and the many states that have enacted voter ID laws.

Roberson’s state Senate candidates followed Sandoval’s lead, sounding a little like Democrats as they talked about refusing further cuts to education. They ran in districts that were Democratic leaning or roughly even, and their talk on education probably sounded reasonable to suburban voters, especially women. Republicans won three of five key races, coming up just short of a majority.

“We ran fairly centrist campaigns,” Roberson said. “To be successful, we have to do a better job of capturing the center. We can be center-right, but we have to understand most people don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat. They want you to solve the problems, be reasonable and thoughtful.”

Dean Heller, who as a congressman in the conservative District 2 became a strident conservative, was on the wrong side of immigration issues, including birthright citizenship. But at least he softened his rhetoric during his 2012 race. He outperformed Mitt Romney among Hispanics, according to CNN exit polls, which may have saved him from the challenge from Rep. Shelley Berkley.

Roberson and Hardy emphasized the need to do more to win Hispanics, which is so obvious it’s almost banal. Hispanics constituted 18 percent of the electorate, and Obama won nearly 70 percent of them, according to exit polls, which actually may have underestimated his totals, according to some analysts.

What’s fascinating is that Roberson, like Heller, had formerly been a partisan bomb thrower. Both seem to have seen the writing on the wall, and both apparently prefer winning to losing. They know the arithmetic.

“My view was driven by mathematics,” Ernaut said. “When you have 90,000 more Democrats than Republicans, it’s hard to beat the other guys.”

Ernaut, a Sandoval advisor, hopes national Republicans look to Nevada as a model. “I’d love to think they’d see Brian Sandoval as a model for a winning Republican message going forward. Will national Republicans be able to do that? I remain hopeful,” he said, not sounding at all hopeful.

Nevada Republicans have a big advantage over their national counterparts in one key respect: Nevada is socially liberal, and evangelical conservatives hold no sway. Nevada Republicans face no litmus tests on abortion rights and gay rights and so are free to join the emerging liberal consensus on those issues.

There’s one thing national Republicans should not emulate about the Nevada GOP: the useless, dysfunctional state party. For years now, the Nevada Republican Party has been largely non-existent, more like the collection of warring factions in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”:

“We’re the People’s Front of Judea!”

Without a functioning party, candidates fend for themselves in the important ground game while Democrats continue to maintain a lethal machine.

“The results speak for themselves,” Ernaut said. “Candidates who built a ground game for themselves did well. Statewide, there wasn’t an effort sufficient to compete.”

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  1. If there was ever a reason for a direct vote and the elimination of parties, this is it.

    Stop trying to manipulate with numbers and categorizations.

    Democrats aren't going to vote for a party being taken over by the Tea Party, or the attempt by Libertarians for Ron Paul.

    Republicans are never going to be the party of all people. It isn't who the Republican Party is.

    If Republicans want to be the party of the people, they should become Democrats.

    Be who you are and accept the outcome, good or bad.

  2. Enjoyed the article, Mr. Coolican, but c'mon, man! Don't instruct the Tea/Republican Party on what they are doing wrong and that they need to pay attention to the Nevada GOoPers.

    I say let them stay the nutball course.

    They need to make sure Fox News and Rush Limbaugh guide them through these tough times by doubling down on the ultra-way-out-there-in-the-stratosphere right wingism.

    Because every indication shows the right wing press does not get what happened after the election. They are telling their viewers/listeners that the majority of people in America are crazy for their votes, and that THEY are the only ones that are telling the truth.

    Dick Morris on Fox News has now officially been declared the worst political pundit in American history for declaring Romney/Ryan winning by a landslide...and doubling down on it. The funny thing about this is that...he don't care. He's pounding out that right wing talking point stuff non-stop STILL. Even after it has been debunked and rejected by the American people. Even funnier is he still has a job. After not being wrong about some things, BUT EVERYTHING.

    Regarding Karl Rove, I read an article today that he has enjoyed a one percent success rate for every $103 million dollars he spent on this election. This proves he's a fraud, a faker, a buffoon, and someone you cannot trust with money to carry through with what he says he'll do. But don't listen to me, villainaires. SEND HIM MORE MONEY!

    So, don't instruct them, Mr. Coolican. We need them to double down and stay the course.

    Because if they turn the volume up to 11 like on the Spinal Tap guitarist's amplifier, they will put the entire Tea/Republican Party on a path to assured self-destruction. Quickly. Especially if the politicians that infect their sorry excuse for a political party let right wing news media dictate their policy even more.

    We need to encourage them to increasing lengths of lunacy!

    Why? Because we will NEVER EVER run out of popcorn. And likewise we will enjoy the entertainment and non-stop laughs as we watch them go to extraordinary lengths on their neverending journey downwards.

    I would also still like to see Romney's Federal Income Tax returns. Not because I'm vindictive, but because I know deep down in my soul he is not only gaming the system, but he's a criminal tax evader.

  3. It is becoming very clear the National Republican Party is in serious decline. Lacking any clarity of truth or direction.

    The main problem, Big money has hijacked the RNC and using groups like the Tea Party to ravage old-school republicans out of office.

    Who is the face and the voices of the Republican Party in America?

    Well, lets see...Donald Trump, John Sinunu, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Foxnews, Peter King, Michele Bachman, Paul Ryan.

    And who are the obstructionist in the Republican Party?

    Well, lets see...Mitch McConnell, John Bohener, Eric Cantor, Renince Priebus, and Grover Norquist.

    Now, how can this group continue as they are and think they are representing America? If this group remains intact the Republicans will not win another election for the next 20 years.

  4. "There is probably a ton of illegals voting in Nevada elections."

    This is so funny! The undocumented don't care about our elections, nor voting. They are undocumented!

    They are not going to be trying to vote and put themselves at risk.

    People need to stop listening to their manipulators who are laughing all the way to the bank.

    "Obama won because of minorities and single women."

    Just as stupid as saying Obama won because of the decreasing population of old white men.

    It makes no sense, but I see how it gives people the excuse they need to not accept reality.

    Minorities and single women have as much right to choose who they will vote for as anyone else. Neither are slaves or chattels.

    I'm neither and voted for Obama and other Democrats, and there are millions like me.

  5. "Maybe it's time to seriously look at the Liberterians[sic]?" - NLV-indep13

    No, it is time to look at the Modern Whig Party.

  6. I will not say "missed completely" but I will say, "talking points". Why don't you do just a little investigating. While Mitt thought he would lock up the Mormon Vote, he didn't. McCain got a larger number of those votes in this State in 08. Then, let us go further, I personally know many Mormons that voted the D side and then let us entertain the Ron Paul contingent that chose to cut their nose off to spite the face they look at each day in the mirror. Combine these numbers with the 20% that just did not show up to vote. Spin it however you wish election, you may not have a job. Think about it.

  7. Nevada Republicans can heed their own recent history. A couple of years ago, they had a legitimate opportunity to unseat the unpopular Senator Harry Reid. Who did Republicans choose to run against him? Sharon Angle.


  8. JP: How about a little freedom every once in a while? I guess with the government school education these folks get they just aren't capable of using their own judgment as to what's moral and lawful.

    Honestly the GOP in Nevada is nothing more than a franchise operation for the Democrats. I guess guys like Colin are going to insist that we go completely bankrupt and wind up in anarchy. Either way sooner or later this system is going to fail under its own weight. And when that happens it's every man (generically speaking) for himself.