We're not even 2/3 of the way through February, and it already looks like this month is by far the "WORST. MONTH. EVER!" for Nevada Republicans. Let's review what has happened so far:
- The much ballyhooed Presidential Caucus descended into pure madness on the 4th, as results were extremely slow to be released... And while they were being released, one more caucus turned fracas when a number of caucus-goers were turned away for not signing a religious waiver (though that didn't stop Ron Paul from winning that caucus anyway).
- Clark County GOP boss Dave Gibbs then declared the next day that, "This is NOT an election. This is a caucus."
- And then on the following Monday, we finally saw the final caucus results... And we found out that GOP caucus turnout actually plummeted 26% from 2008 levels despite this one supposedly being more hotly contested than 2008.
- And then, there was the ultimate insult to injury. The Nevada GOP jumped through so many RNC hoops to be seen as "legitimate", only for the national media to mock them... And only for their anointed "winner", Willard "Mr. 1%" Romney, to be derailed by "Frothy" Ricky Santorum's 3-for-3 wins in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. Those were "not supposed to count", but they ended up rendering the political ripple effects of the Nevada GOP Caucus null and void.
- And in case all the drama at the top wasn't bad enough for them, Republicans started worrying down the ballot as well. Politico asked how the horrible caucus turnout may spell trouble for Dean Heller.
- Joe Heck then stepped into it big time with his declaration that insurance coverage of contraception is "not a women's health issue".
- State Senator Greg Brower (R-Reno) then realized he had a real race on his hands when State Senator Sheila Leslie (D-Reno) announced her resignation from what used to be Washoe District 1 to run in the new District 15.
- And then, there's Elizabeth Halseth.
Some pundits are reporters now wondering just how bad it's become for Nevada Republicans. Their chances of winning back the Nevada State Senate are dwindling thanks to the SD 15 development and Halseth's resignation. Their dreams of a near sweep of the Congressional races have been dashed. And their chances of being big players on the national political stage are long gone.
So why is Chuck Muth so giddy? He seems to think that somehow Sheila Leslie running in SD 15 improves Republican chances of taking the Nevada Assembly. And sorry, but I have a hard time seeing that. Yes, Skip Daly is facing trouble in the new AD 31... But we already knew that. And in fact since Teresa Benitez-Thompson will be running in a new AD 27 that's nested into SD 15, I'm actually feeling more confident that increased Democratic turnout for Sheila Leslie will also reelect Benitez-Thompson. Just because Debbie Smith is running for the new SD 13 (which is a safe Dem district, mind you) doesn't mean "Democrat dominoes are falling" anywhere in Washoe County.
However, there's another reason why Chuck Muth is so giddy... And I actually think we should take this seriously. Look at the Nevada GOP's ongoing change of leadership. First Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) took over as Senate Republican Caucus leader, then Pat Hickey (R-Reno) took charge of the Assembly Republican Caucus, and now there's a strong possibility of former Las Vegas City Council Member Michael McDonald taking over the Nevada Republican Party. When Muth waxes poetic about "conservative, bare-knuckle fighter[s]", then he's excited about the Nevada GOP going even more in the G-O-TEA direction of becoming willing to fight "death matches" in government to score ideological points.
And yes, expect this kind of brutality to affect the campaign trail this year as well. They will most definitely be playing to win. But even if they can't win, they intend to lose in the ugliest way possible.
So I'd caution progressives not to get too giddy over the G-O-TEA mayhem right now. Yes, I still believe they're setting themselves up for disaster in November... But they will still be willing to scrap out any wins they can get down ballot just for the sake of obstructing any attempts at progress on progressive tax reform and rebuilding of Nevada's public infrastructure next year.
Just as we're seeing on the national level with Romney and Santorum duking it out for the title of "Great Tea Party Slayer of the Evil Socialist Barack Obama Dragon" while tacking farther and farther to the radical right, this new crop of Nevada Republican leadership may be even more willing to fulfill the craziest of "tea party" wet dreams and fight a "scorched earth" campaign against both Democrats and (relative) moderates in their own party. They may be far out of the mainstream here in Nevada, but that won't stop them from becoming a big roadblock in both Nevada government and the federal government.
So enjoy a chuckle or two now, but be prepared to not just vote this fall, but ensure all your friends, family, and neighbors know about the consequences of "tea party" fueled obstruction. Remember, all Muth & Co. need are at least 15 Assembly Members and 8 Senators to continue ripping apart Nevada's schools while protecting "billionaire bailouts" in our tax code. And all Muth & Co. need are Senator Heller and a couple House Republicans to keep Washington dysfunctional.
Nevada Republicans may be down, but don't count out their ability to wreak more havoc on government just yet.