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election 2012:

Sandoval’s political adviser predicts Romney will lose Nevada

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Pete Ernaut

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 | 8:30 p.m.

One of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s top political advisers is predicting Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will lose Nevada this year.

In an interview on "Nevada Newsmakers," Republican political adviser Pete Ernaut said Nevada’s split-ticket voters will likely side with both President Barack Obama and Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

“I think Obama will carry the state somewhere (between 1-3 percentage points), something like that, and I think that is the margin of victory for Heller,” Ernaut said.

A second Sandoval political adviser, Mike Slanker who is a paid consultant, disputed Ernaut's comments, which received national attention.

"Pete and I have known each other for a long time and usually we agree," Slanker said in a written statement. "But on this one I couldn't disagree more. Mitt Romney has the momentum and will carry Nevada."

Ernaut, a lobbyist for R&R Partners, is one of Sandoval’s closest political advisers. Although he doesn’t involve himself in many political campaigns now, Ernaut was one of two advisers who talked with Sandoval about leaving the federal bench to run for governor. He is a former Republican lawmaker, former chief of staff to the late Gov. Kenny Guinn and former executive director of the Republican Assembly Caucus.

Sandoval is one of the most popular politicians in the state, but has been largely absent from Romney’s campaign trail — a conspicuous absence given Romney’s tough fight in one of the country’s most critical battleground states.

Sandoval appeared at one early-season rally with Romney, but hasn’t acted as much of a surrogate for the campaign. Instead, Sandoval seems to be focusing his attention on both Heller’s race — even appearing in a television campaign ad with Heller — and raising money to aid Republicans' effort to take back the state Senate.

“I don’t think there's a Romney-Berkley voting bloc, but there’s clearly an Obama-Heller voting bloc,” Ernaut said in the "Nevada Newsmakers" interview. “I actually made the prediction that I think the margin of victory will be similar.”

Ernaut said he questioned how many of Democrats' newly registered voters will turn out to vote, but said the party’s wide registration advantage is a problem for the Republican ticket.

“Not to be a stickler on basic math, but when you’ve got 140,000 plus more of the other guys than your guys, you’ve got a problem,” he said.

Romney is amid a two-day campaign swing to rally supporters in Reno and Henderson as Nevada voters begin to cast ballots in the state’s critical early voting period.

Top elected Republicans spoke at Romney’s rally in Henderson today, but Sandoval is out of the country. He’ll also miss Romney’s rally in Reno on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Sandoval said his trip to Canada for economic development meetings was planned months ago.

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