Monday, September 04, 2006

Nevada Governor Race

Race of the Day

September 4, 2006
64 Days Until Election Day

Nevada Governor

Status: Republican Open
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Leans Republican

As a fairly popular Republican Governor exists the scene after 8 years in office in Nevada, another Republican is considered the favorite to succeed him, although without the expressed support of the incumbent.

Congressman Jim Gibbons, who was the Republican nominee for the office back in 1994, is once again his party’s standard-bearer for the fall election, after having overcome a somewhat competitive primary race, that he was not expected to face. Gibbons was challenged by the state’s current Lt. Governor, who represented the moderate wing of the party, and by a State Senator who ran to his right, and was the main opponent. When all was said and done however, Gibbons won the primary by a total marginally stronger than some expected, which has probably allowed him to move on to the general election breathing a little easier.

All is not unified in the GOP though, as current Governor Kenny Guinn is considered a harsh critic of Gibbons and is not expected to make an endorsement in the race. However, Gibbons quickly gained the support of at least one of the candidates he defeated in the primary.

In another interesting sidebar to the race, Gibbons’ wife, herself a state legislator, ran in the primary to replace her husband in Congress, but finished third. Due to that result, she is now free to devote her time to campaigning for her husband across the state, instead of having to divide her time running for office herself.

Gibbons’ Democrat opponent is the State Senate Minority Leader, Dina Titus, whose southern accent belies a strong liberal lean to her politics. Titus also impressed by winning a fairly early primary victory over a more moderate opponent, who had earlier been thought of as the frontrunner in the race for the nomination. That candidate apparently ran a lackluster campaign, and in spite of the fact that public opinion polls consistently showed him running far better in match ups against Gibbons, she was effectively able to use some past Republican affiliations against him and claim that he was not a real Democrat.

Titus, who is strongly backed by the important interest group of organized labor within the state, has the reputation of being a pretty fierce political fighter. On the eve of the primary election, she found the time to leave a fairly angry voice mail message for a young campaign aide of her eventual running mate on the Democrat ticket, who had been found also volunteering for Titus’s primary opponent. The voice mail wound up in the hands of the media. In a sign that Nevada Republicans aren’t the only ones not singing from the same songbook this year, Titus’s defeated opponent is apparently withholding an endorsement of her candidacy.

The fact that Nevada is considered a battleground state and some potential lack of Republican support for Gibbons, it is hard to classify this race as yet being strongly in favor of the Congressman, but he has consistently led Titus in the polls, and is ahead by 9 points in the most recent Rasmussen Reports survey. Gibbons also has a very large advantage in campaign cash.

The Democrat can be expected to do well within the city of Las Vegas, where her party, and organized labor are strong, but Gibbons should ring up a large margin in the more sparsely populated conservative rural areas of the state, which he has represented in Congress. The race will be decided in the fast growing suburbs around Las Vegas, where Titus runs the risk of being seen as too liberal. The Democrat she defeated in the primary, whose name happened to be Jim Gibson, would have been likely to have given Gibbons a tougher battle, because of his position as Mayor of the large suburban city of Henderson, a more moderate image, and perhaps even some voter confusion over similar sounding names.

The race is not a done deal yet, but it still makes sense to bet on Gibbons.

As always, any comments are welcome, especially from the political gambler in Vegas who reads these posts. What is the line on this race, Gary?

Gibbons campaign link:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 5 D, 16 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 13 D, 22 R