Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

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Jon Ralston:

A speech, a story, a slur and a special

Emptying out the notebook with your Friday Flash after a busy week in Nevada politics featuring Mitt Romney’s pleasant sojourn in North Las Vegas, Shelley Berkley’s unpleasant sojourn on the front page of The New York Times, Chris Christie’s admonition against a hot sojourn in Las Vegas and Kate Marshall’s Kafkaesque sojourn as a Republican:

• The Massachusetts of the West: Laying down yet another marker, Romney chose, of all the places in the world, North Las Vegas to announce his jobs plan. As I have said, Mitt Romney and North Las Vegas go together like Harry Reid and “Dancing With the Stars.” But the incongruity was lost on the hundreds of partisans who were thrilled he was here — briefly — on his way to the GOP debate in Simi Valley, Calif., a place not unlike North Las Vegas.

It’s not just that no other candidate can match Romney’s organization in Nevada. It’s that no other GOP hopeful has any organization in Nevada.

Herman Cain is making some sub rosa noises and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is talking to consultants here. But until someone decides to put some money into Nevada, this is Romney Country.

• So there is a way to shut Shelley up? As the portable oxygen tanks are wheeled into the offices of the U.S. Senate majority leader and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee after that New York Times expose on Rep. Shelley Berkley, the collective breath-holding will continue for a time.

As I have previously written, Reid was initially tepid about Berkley as the party standard-bearer against Sen. Dean Heller. But once he was in, he was, as usual, all in. Just ask Byron Georgiou, elbowed to the sidelines by Reid & Co., and now surely wondering why he is not first-string.

Berkley may well weather the storm — she is nothing if not indomitable. And her campaign’s argument that she was advocating for patient access that coincidentally helped her husband’s business may sway some folks. But I continue to believe that by snubbing the Times and refusing local interviews, she makes the appearance worse and increases speculation there is fire beyond the smoke. (This is not just about getting her on “Face to Face,” but now that you mention it ...)

Let’s face it: It doesn’t matter as much what Berkley does now — although she is her own best advocate — as how Heller and the Republicans use the issue next year. Assuming, that is, that Reid & Co. don’t panic — they won’t if nothing else surfaces — and decide to put someone else in the game.

• Viva Atlantic City? I was quite amused — and pleased — to see the reaction of Las Vegas officials after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, using the same kind of bluster to boost a city that a certain former Las Vegas mayor might have, said: “There is no reason people should go to Las Vegas in the summer. You’d have to be stupid to do that.”

The response: Measured and wry, especially from new Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who among other things, declared: “Las Vegas is nirvana.”

Well, yes, if nirvana has 13 percent unemployment, thousands of homes underwater and dozens of businesses shuttered. Other than that …

• For whom the bellwether tolls: Amid all the hand-wringing about Democratic Treasurer Kate Marshall’s metamorphosis into a Republican vermin and the lamentations about the national Democrats abandoning her, the simple story of the first House special election since 1865 is that it was decided July 5.

That was the day the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that nixed Secretary of State Ross Miller’s “ballot royale,” a free-for-all that would have attracted several Republicans besides Mark Amodei. The GOP hopefuls would have split the Republican vote and potentially allowed Marshall to garner enough votes to win — and surely would have attracted outside spending to boost her chances.

Many national pundits and partisans will use Marshall’s almost-certain loss — early voting shows the Republicans with a 20 percentage point turnout advantage — to spin a narrative, especially if the Democrats also lose the special election Tuesday for Anthony Weiner’s seat. But observers almost always read too much into isolated elections to manufacture harbingers of oncoming doom or distant victory.

Marshall won’t lose because she is a poor actress who should have played to type. She is going to lose because the 2nd Congressional District always has been held by a Republican and, barring a redistricting miracle, always will be.

As for Amodei, who proposed the largest tax increase in history and whose love/hate relationship with Paul Ryan could have been costly, he was in the right place at the right time. And that, too often, is all it takes.

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