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September 2, 2015

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Republicans wish Sandoval would spend more political capital on Romney

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Christopher DeVargas

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at right, address supporters during a campaign rally at a local business, Tuesday May 29, 2012.

Privately, some Republicans have kept up a steady drumbeat of questioning on why Gov. Brian Sandoval hasn’t done more to campaign for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Still, few have gone on record to criticize Sandoval for seeming wary of putting his own popularity rating on the line in the presidential race.

But after one of Sandoval’s top political advisers predicted Romney would lose Nevada, and now that the race is down to the wire, some are starting to go public with their criticism.

“What I wish would happen is that Gov. Sandoval would be out there more active in support of the Romney ticket,” Republican consultant Robert Uithoven, who ran former Gov. Jim Gibbons’ 2006 campaign, said in an interview for To the Point.

“I love the fact he’s out there doing television ads for Dean Heller. But if we have a governor as popular as Sandoval—68 percent approval rating—I think he could make a 2 percent difference in this race by cutting an ad for Mitt Romney.”

Sandoval has consistently articulated support for the Republican presidential ticket. But he’s appeared at only one campaign rally with Romney and has done little other advertising or retail politicking to help the ticket.

By contrast, Sandoval has appeared in a television advertisement for U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, who is in a tight race with Democrat Shelley Berkley, and raised substantial amounts of money for state Senate Republicans.

Romney’s trips to Nevada typically have very little advance planning. Twice Sandoval’s previously planned travel prevented him from attending rallies with Romney.

But this week, Sandoval’s informal political adviser Pete Ernaut told Nevada Newsmakers host Sam Shad that he believes President Barack Obama will win the Silver State by a narrow margin. The comment made national news, and prompted Sandoval’s paid political adviser to put out an opposing statement.

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

The comment also seemed to prompt Sandoval to use his Twitter feed a little more extensively to promote Romney.

“Mitt Romney clearly has the momentum here in Nevada,” Sandoval tweeted this week, after Ernaut’s comment aired.

“Governor Romney will carry Nevada and be next President. He has my full support.”

One day later, Sandoval tweeted a request for volunteers to help Romney during early voting.

With little more than a week until Election Day, the public metrics appear dim for Romney, who nevertheless continues to spend considerable resources in Nevada. Romney hasn’t posted a lead in a single public poll conducted since the general election began.

Democrats have a striking 90,000 voter registration advantage and have been turning out their early voters at a faster clip than Republicans.

But Romney hasn’t given up on the state. He and his running mate Paul Ryan campaigned in Nevada this week and the campaign continues to spend money on television advertising.

By this point four years ago, Republican nominee John McCain had largely given up on Nevada, keeping a core of staff members here and sending running mate Sarah Palin to give a last minute speech, but otherwise focusing on other states.

This year, however, Romney isn’t constrained by limited resources and has been free to continue spending heavily in states where he may still have a chance.

Even those in his own party, however, aren’t sounding optimistic.

“I think a lot of people are making that assessment,” Uithoven said of Ernaut’s prediction. “I don’t think Pete is alone in making that assessment.”

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