Las Vegas Sun

January 17, 2018

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Jon Ralston:

Inside the campaign war rooms

AS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY IN THE HISTORY OF NEVADA POLITICS looms Saturday, I had the privilege of being allowed inside each of the campaign’s inner sanctums this week. A report from the shadows:

The Romney camp’s conversation took place at the Cosmopolitan, where the hip former Massachusetts governor and his entourage were staying.

Romney: So is this really true that Trump wants to endorse me?

Staffer No. 1: Yes, Governor. But he wants you to come to the Trump Tower and kiss his ring.

Romney: That arrogant, self-serving blowhard. He makes me want to swear.

Staffer No. 2 (covering ears): Please, no, Governor!

Romney: So why should I do it? Why not tell him to pound sand?

Staffer No. 1: Well, he does appeal to a certain kind of Republican that you don’t.

Staffer No. 2: Yes, the moron caucus.

Romney: So it helps us expand the base from people making $1 million and above?

Staffer No. 1: Exactly. And it gets him out of our hair — sorry for the pun — and ensures he doesn’t run.

Staffer No. 2: Oh, there’s no chance he will run. But it will shut him up. And that is a feat in itself.

Romney: You know Ann will kill me for this. Being up on stage with him. It’s hard enough for me to force smiles when I’m being interviewed.

Staffer No. 1: I know, Governor. But we won’t let the jackals ask questions and you just have to patronize him a few times before the election.

Romney: All right, I’ll do it. I don’t like it. But I do want to win.


The Gingrich camp’s conversation took place at Mundo, an eatery partly owned by George Harris, the serial fabulist who specializes in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Gingrich: Is it true? We’re getting Trump?

Harris: I have it confirmed and I gave it to a friendly reporter, Newt. You can count on me.

Gingrich: He doesn’t think he gets to talk more than I do at the press conference, does he?

Harris: He’ll do whatever you want, boss. I’ve got it handled.

Gingrich: Frankly, this is fundamentally great news. This may be a historical watershed in this campaign. Trump is a joke, but the people we are trying to energize like jokes. They actually believe he is conservative like they believe I’m conservative.

Harris: Oh, you are conservative, Newt. I just ran a poll and people think you are and we are tied with Romney. I just told a friendly reporter that. They will print it.

Gingrich: Man, you are as good as your reputation. What else can you do for me, George?

Harris: I can float any rumors you want, Newt. I make stuff up with the best of ’em.

Gingrich: No wonder we get along so well.


Ron Paul’s colloquy took place in a basement in an undisclosed location and I had to wear a blindfold to get there and while I was there.

Paul: So how are we doing? We had another great crowd tonight, I thought.

Staffer No. 1: Yes, doctor. A thousand or so. And only a few of them were wearing straitjackets and speaking in tongues.

Paul: That’s good. I love my supporters, but some of them are otherworldly. I don’t know why they love a guy like me, but we’ll take them.

Staffer No. 2: They love you, Dr. Paul, because you speak truth to power, because you are not the Establishment, because you will take our country back and … end the Fed!

Paul: Yes, I do do that. So how are we doing on the endorsement groups?

Staffer No. 1: Great. We have Mormons for Paul. We have Small Business for Paul. We have Hispanics for Paul. We have one-armed paper hangers for Paul. We have UFOers for Paul. More to come.

Paul: You think some people will see this as a little goofy?

Staffer No. 2: Compared to the rest of our campaign? I don’t think so, sir.


The Rick Santorum meeting took place in a car on the way to John Ensign’s veterinary clinic.

Santorum: Tell me again: Why am I here?

Staffer No. 1: Because you are running for vice president or Cabinet so you can have a real job.

Santorum: Oh yeah. But why here? Gambling: I hate it. Yucca Mountain: I’m for it. Family values: This ain’t the place for it.

Staffer No. 2: True. But we have a BIG endorsement coming our way here.

Santorum: Did we get Sharron Angle? She is my kind of person. Devout and determined.

Staffer No. 1: But the media portray her as deranged.

Santorum: Who cares about the media? They are mostly heathens.

Staffer No. 2: True. I just hope that the Republicans here remember her fondly.

Santorum: I’m sure they do.

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