Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011 | 2 a.m.
In most campaigns, endorsements are a commodity with a swiftly declining value.
Sure, they offer an opportunity for a news conference and give a candidate the chance to tout expanding support. In the end, however, they often do little to help a candidate over the finish line.
But that calculus is a little different when it comes to Nevada’s presidential caucuses.
Republicans running for president will be seeking ways to instantly boost their Nevada cred and building strategic alliances with local politicos and power brokers is key to doing that.
Several of the top names in Republican politics are already spoken for, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney swooping in early to resurrect endorsements from his run four years ago. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, as well as a number of Republican state lawmakers have signed on to that campaign.
Complicating the picture is the number of high-profile Republicans who signed on to support Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the last election, tainting them with die-hard GOP primary voters.
“In GOP primary circles, the list of important GOP endorsements is small, and took a pretty good hit with the ‘Republicans for Reid’ train last year,” lamented one Republican operative when asked who the key gets are for this year’s presidential hopefuls.
With that in mind, the Sun has compiled a list of the top five Nevada-endorsement targets presidential candidates might consider putting on their radar screen.
Photo by Justin M. Bowen
1. Gov. Brian Sandoval
Sandoval is unquestionably the most sought after endorsement in Nevada Republican politics. Scandal-free, popular with voters and with few blemishes on his conservative record, Sandoval remains the golden child. But is he already spoken for?
Many in Nevada politics believe Sandoval will “keep his powder dry” well into the primary season. In his last public comment on the issue, he said he is still researching the candidates and is looking forward to the debate to be held in Nevada in October.
But Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entrance into the race may change that. Sandoval has had a long relationship with Perry, who supported his bid for governor last year.
Perhaps more importantly, Perry and Sandoval share a media consultant. And Sandoval’s top political advisers — Mike Slanker and Pete Ernaut — are expected to be tapped by the Perry campaign to run his Nevada operations.
So will Sandoval stay neutral and continue fueling national talk of his running-mate potential? Or will he jump on board a campaign early to gain access to the inner circle of a candidate who might be president?
Photo by Harry Hamburg/AP
2. U.S. Sen. Dean Heller
Heller has generally stayed out of Republican squabbles. Endorsing one candidate, after all, will simply antagonize the other candidates’ supporters. And as he prepares a difficult run for U.S. Senate, Heller can’t exactly afford to antagonize supporters.
But since going to Washington, Heller has worked to burnish his conservative credentials and remains popular with primary voters. Although he doesn’t have an organized grass-roots network that could be valuable for a presidential contender, his endorsement could boost a presidential hopeful’s conservative bona fides.
3. Steve Wynn
The Las Vegas casino mogul became a somewhat surprising champion for Republican primary voters this summer with his continued rants against President Barack Obama. In a conference call with stockholders last month, Wynn blasted the president as the “greatest wet blanket for business and progress and job creation in my lifetime.”
A nod from Wynn could help not only with voters, but also with fundraising.
“I have heard people at least in Clark County (Republican circles) talk more and more about what Steve Wynn has been saying, so he might matter a bit more than he used to,” one Republican operative said.
Photo by Sam Morris
4. State Sen. Barbara Cegavske
Cegavske isn’t known statewide, she isn’t exactly a power broker in the Legislature and often irritates the political establishment. But state lawmakers such as her could be valuable to a candidate because she brings a grass-roots following.
Cegavske is a known conservative, and although her following maybe relatively small — coming from a single state Senate district — piecing together a cadre of local politicians with local followings could help in a low-turnout caucus.
Reached Tuesday, Cegavske said she hasn’t yet made a decision in the race. But being from Minnesota, she has a natural affinity for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
“I like Michele and I like the thought of a woman president, too,” Cegavske said. “But I like Romney, too, and I don’t know a lot about Perry, but I’m learning some about him.”
Photo by Sam Morris
5. Former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle
OK, just kidding with this one.
It’s unlikely that a presidential candidate will go knocking on Angle’s door. “Except for maybe Michele Bachmann,” one political observer quipped.
Although Angle maintains a devoted following of conservative voters, that number shrunk significantly following her loss to Reid last year.
“She is the last person you want to see walk through the doors of your event,” one GOP operative said.