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November 19, 2017

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GOP stands for ‘getting outta politics’ in Nevada


Joe Elbert

Sue Lowden chats with a film crew while waiting to shoot a shotgun during a fundraiser at the Clark County Shooting Park. Lowden is a candidate in the Republican primary for the right to run for U.S. senator in November.

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Sue Lowden

Sue Lowden

Danny Tarkanian

Danny Tarkanian

Gov. Jim Gibbons

Gov. Jim Gibbons

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

John Ensign

John Ensign

Nevada Republicans seem more like Democrats this year. They should be ready for a big year, but seem intent on embracing failure, like a blackjack player hitting on 20.

First, the good news for Republicans:

The economy, although finally showing some tiny signs of life, is still awful and has voters in an angry, anti-incumbent mood, which is mostly bad for Democrats given that they’re the party in power.

The Republican base has been fired up by its animus toward the policies of President Barack Obama and his most important legislator, Sen. Harry Reid.

And, neither Reid nor his son, likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Rory Reid, inspire much enthusiasm among voters of any type.

So it ought to be a clean sweep for the GOP.

And yet, no one is counting out Democrats, and for good reason.

First, Democrats have built and maintained a strong infrastructure that is the result of the 2008 presidential caucus. They’ve continued to build it even after Obama’s crushing, 12 percentage point general election victory here.

Democrats have money, organization and a deep bench of candidates — a firewall.

As for Republicans, well, it’s quite a thing to behold.

Where to begin?

The race for U.S. Senate has turned into a circus, with between four and, oh, say, a dozen candidates with a chance of winning the Republican nomination. As former state Sen. Sue Lowden tries to firm up her front-runner status, with Danny Tarkanian, John Chachas and Sharron Angle attacking her, Reid is taking shots at her daily, forcing her to fight on two fronts.

For a while, it seemed as if Gov. Jim Gibbons would either not run, or put up so little resistance that former federal Judge Brian Sandoval would sail to the nomination and be a strong contender against the younger Reid. But Gibbons is fighting for his political life, and if nothing else will force Sandoval to spend some of his precious money during the primary.

A slew of contentious Republican primaries in state Senate races must have Democratic Majority Leader Steven Horsford flashing his ear-to-ear grin.

The Republicans failed to find a top challenger to either Secretary of State Ross Miller or Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, two up-and-coming Democrats who could have used some softening up this cycle, even if neither could be defeated.

Finally, there’s the ongoing mess of Sen. John Ensign. Thus far, apparently no Republicans have the stature to tell Ensign, who faces federal investigation, that it’s time to do the party a favor and quit.

The state party itself evoked laughter among several prominent Republicans I spoke to last week.

“There’s a whole lot of unproductive activity going on over there without any rhyme or reason,” said a Republican source, before unfurling a string of unsolicited insults at party leadership.

A key question would seem to be, “Where are the adults?” Can’t someone put a heavy hand on the shoulder of a top-tier candidate and say, “We need you,” or clear the field of primary challengers, or tell Ensign it’s time to step aside?

“That’s usually the role of the head of party,” another Republican source said. “But who is the head of the party? Yeah, there’s your answer.”

Steve Wark, a Republican consultant and former party chairman, said the GOP is fortunate that the primary is early this year — it’s been moved up to June 8. Once the party has its nominees, national political talent will come in and fix things, he said.

This seemed to be the consensus among Republican sources — that the failures of the state party are irrelevant because what matters are the individual campaigns and the ability of national political talent in those campaigns to build grass-roots infrastructure for victory.

The state party’s new spokeswoman, Ciara Turns, acknowledged prior organizational problems but said the ship had been righted. It’s recently hired Cory Adair, who has run parties in two other states, to be executive director.

“With the current team in place, we are confident in our ability to organize and develop a grass-roots effort geared toward winning in November,” Turns said.

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