Las Vegas Sun

August 11, 2022

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Jon Ralston:

State GOP fumbles away advantage

Only two months ago, Nevada Republicans were seeing red — in a good way.

The party was finally getting professional, the GOP prospects to win the presidential and U.S. Senate races here were looking good and they believed the redistricting court fight was going their way. (I was impressed: See here. And don’t forget — that tough New York Times story on Rep. Shelley Berkley came out AFTER I wrote that September column.)

But now, a year from the election, the Republicans have shown signs of bumbling at the top, their Senate candidate has made an uncharacteristically undisciplined (and potentially costly) error and the Democrats now have a reason to see blue — in a good way — because of final redistricting maps.

It’s advantage, Democrats, again in Nevada, — and the feeling is eerily similar to one year out from the 2010 election, when Harry Reid was a dead man walking, only to be reanimated by an electrifying Democratic machine and shocking GOP ineptitude. Both elements seem to be there again as the Republicans seemed to have forgotten to read their Santayana.

First, the party. After hiring professionals to run the presidential caucus and raising the issue of same-day registration, chairwoman Amy Tarkanian found herself sucked into the maw of idiocy and infighting that too often characterizes political parties.

The result: The wingnuts not only scuttled same-day registration, which could have helped the GOP cut into the Democrats’ 64,000-plus statewide edge, but the Republicans staged a slow-motion, nationally embarrassing retreat from their early caucus date.

Not since rabble-rousing Ron Paul delegates forced the shutdown of the 2008 state GOP convention has the party been so exposed as a toxic warehouse of destructive, cannibalizing fools.

As one of the few sane delegates, Orrin Johnson, would put it in a blog post shortly after the party voted to make the state irrelevant in the GOP nominating process and outlaw same-day registration: “The purpose of a political party is to get as many members of that party elected to public office as possible.”

Not this party. Not this cycle.

By contrast, the Democrats remain a well-oiled machine, greased by the money and steady hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Some dictatorships are good.

It didn’t take long for the distancing to begin, either. Almost immediately, Sen. Dean Heller announced the formation of “Team Dean,” a “grassroots movement to take back Washington.”

Translation: We don’t trust the party to do anything. Same old, same old.

Heller, though, showed he might have caught a lowering-political-IQ affliction from getting too close to the party. He smartly set up an outreach meeting with the Latin Chamber of Commerce, knowing how pivotal the Hispanic vote will be and how some of his comments and positions had gone over. But when he learned that a camera and (the horror!) a staffer from his opponent’s camp were at the meeting, he ran away like the proverbial scalded dog.

This pathetic display was unlike the usually disciplined Heller, who must not be aware of what The Reid Party did to Sharron Angle last year — following her around to events, planting folks at meetings. If this is how Heller is going to campaign, he’s in for a long year — and the unrelenting Democrats were thrilled that he made his Hispanic problems worse and they immediately put up a radio ad (in Spanish, of course).

I don’t want to suggest that this is some sort of fatal mistake by Heller. Far from it. But if it is indicative of how he will conduct himself, Berkley, who is much more likely to go off script, will be ecstatic.

The biggest development since September, though, is the redistricting resolution, about as good as the Democrats could have dreamed of when the special masters began their work. Indeed, the Republicans always embraced the process while the Democrats were contemplating how many ways they could sue after the masters produced their maps.

Then the districts were released. The congressional maps gave the Democrats two safe seats and the Republicans one, as expected. And the masters rebuffed the GOP request to remove as many minorities as possible from Rep. Joe Heck’s district — aka known as the “We Can Really Pretend to Love Hispanics” project — and ensured the incumbent Republican’s district remained competitive.

If the congressional maps were helpful, the legislative maps did just what the Democrats hoped they would — fortified some vulnerable state senators and actually raised the possibility of legislative majorities for a decade if the GOP doesn’t get its act together.

And that is now seriously in question a year before an election that could determine who is president, who is Nevada’s senator for six years and who controls Carson City for a decade.

I’d guess many Republicans are seeing a different kind of red now.

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