Monday, May 21, 2012

Explaining Nevada Republicans' Existential Crisis

The Nevada G-O-TEA's reenactment of "Lord of the Flies" is turning out to be quite the stunning performance. In fact, it's so convincing that it's scaring Republican insiders in DC. And it's making them find ways to circumvent their own state party.

To hear some Republicans tell it, the disarray of their state party apparatus isn’t much to worry about.

After all, they’ve got the cavalry coming in the form of nearly unlimited spending from outside political nonprofit groups, which can blanket the airwaves with ads and even pinch hit in the all-important ground game.

The money part is true. Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-founded political organization, just launched an expensive, monthlong ad blitz in Las Vegas.

And Americans for Prosperity, funded by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch, has been busy knocking on doors, identifying voters and building the turnout machine that’s usually run by the state party.

But can a patchwork of unaffiliated political groups — which by law cannot coordinate with any candidate’s campaign — run as efficient an operation as the joined efforts of a candidate and the party?

That's where they run into trouble all over again. After all, it's taken a whole lot of time and a whole lot of "sweat equity" for Harry Reid and his allies to build up "The Nevada Democratic Machine" that's become famous for turning Nevada Blue and dramatically reshaping the political calculus in this state. Can Sheldon Adelson and a handful of other right-wing billionaires really swoop in and save Mitt Romney & the entire G-O-TEA ticket by pumping up their Super PACs for the next five months?

“At first impression, [Harry] Reid has been very successful and Adelson hasn’t,” said Dan Hart, a Nevada Democratic strategist. “If it comes down to turnout, in a close race, Democrats win because of that foundation that’s been built by Sen. Reid. He’s a master of the science of politics, versus the art of politics. Sheldon Adelson’s more about the art of politics — you know, let’s toss a (money) bomb in the room, see what we can blow up.”

There’s a limit, though, to how much money can do in the state.

“Nevada’s a cheap date, in that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a big impact here,” said Robert Uithoven, a Republican strategist. “Statewide, you have two media markets, one larger than average and one smaller than average, and those two media markets hit 95 percent of our population — and that’s 95 percent of our voters.” [...]

The Nevada Republican Party has lagged, desperate for a similar Reid-like sherpa to infuse the organization with, well, organization.

Ever since Gov. Kenny Guinn left office, the Nevada Republican Party has lacked a central, formidable figure capable of keeping it in line. Things have descended into such a state of disarray in recent months that national party officials are importing reserves to set up a “shadow” state GOP — a move that may smooth coordination of the 2012 campaigns but, with few roots in Nevada, won’t likely flourish beyond November.

The confusion has left Adelson — an emergent force in 2012 but historically a deep-pocketed political dilettante — as the most influential Nevada Republican almost by default.

“There’s not, in a sense, a single godfather for the Republican party, in the way Reid performs that role for the Democrats,” said Eric Herzik, professor of political science at UNR. “Adelson plays at politics. When there’s an issue he cares about, he’s got the money, and he can walk in and get attention. Harry Reid plays for keeps and plays every day. ... He’s there in every election.”

And that's the key difference. Even if Sheldon Adelson and the pro-Romney Super PACs limit Democratic success this cycle, they don't bode well for the long term health of Republicans in this state. After all, Democrats had to learn this lesson the hard way. In 2004, the roles were reversed and the Nevada Democratic Party had the weak sauce and lack of strong organization. Many Democrats and progressives genuinely thought the party's ill condition ultimately wouldn't matter because the likes of George Soros, left-friendly Hollywood power players, and MoveOn were funding 527s to turn out votes for John Kerry. Remember how that turned out? At least their failure compelled Harry Reid and his allies to rebuild the Nevada Democratic Party and transform it into "the well oiled machine" that we know it to be today.

In many ways, the crisis facing Nevada Republicans now is far worse than the problems facing Nevada Democrats in 2004. The primary/caucus process has exposed deep divisions in the right, and no establishment Republicans have any interest in saving the Nevada Republican Party any more. So what they have left is a "revolution" that RNC leadership would rather not have televised... And a bunch of Super PACs that will close shop after November and leave Republicans with that very "revolution" at their doorstep that they refuse to let inside.

And this expalins Nevada Republicans' existential crisis.

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