Saturday, September 04, 2010

Nevada Governor Race

Race of the Day

Nevada Governor

September 4, 2010
59 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Fast growing Nevada was one of the state's that the Obama Democrats were able to win in 2008, which had previously gone Republican, and were able to do so by an impressive margin. With a very unpopular GOP Governor in place, up for reelection, things seemed ripe for a takeover of the Governor's office as well, after three straight defeats. Circumstances have changed though, as the unpopular Governor received the boot from voters of his own party. Now, the Republican candidate is quite popular with his Democrat opponent weighed down by serious baggage. The race will likely be a blowout, and will take second billing regardless to the state's U.S. Senate contest.

Republican Jim Gibbons became Governor in 2006, hanging on to a once large lead, that whittled away with some late campaign stories about personal misconduct on the campaign trail. Many did not place much credence into the allegations that he made unwanted physical advances towards a Las Vegas waitress, but after becoming Governor, he soon found himself in the middle of a messy divorce with the state's First Lady. Gibbons was accused by his estranged wife of being unfaithful and his administration was also mired with problems of investigations and unpopularity. Many hoped Gibbons would forgo a reelection bid, or even resign, but lo and behold he decided to seek a second term in 2010.

A couple credible primary challengers emerged, but the game was fundamentally changed when Brian Sandoval became a candidate for Governor, and the establishment rallied around him. Formerly the state's Attorney General, and the first Hispanic to ever win statewide, he had been serving for the past few years as a federal judge. Giving up a lifetime appointment to the bench is a pretty big deal, that is not often done. Sandoval must have had supreme confidence in his ability to win his next political race, to make such a move. It would also seem to indicate that unless being Governor of Nevada has been the dream of his life since childhood, he may be looking even further down the road towards national office one day. It is obviously easier to do so as a Governor than staying longer in the judiciary. When Republican voters went to the polls in June, Sandoval won a clear majority of the vote in a multi-candidate field and bested the incumbent by more than 2 to 1.

The Democrat nominee won by an even bigger margin, though 30 percent of primary voters still decided to cast a ballot for either a little known candidate or "None of These." Rory Reid is the Chairman of the Clark County Commission and is also the eldest son of Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. Rory will be sharing a ticket this year with his father, who as a quite polarizing and partisan figure, has seen his popularity in Nevada go south. The Gubernatorial candidate is running a campaign as "Rory" with trying to downplay his family name as much as possible. While Harry Reid's reelection race is incredibly tight and one of the most closely watched political events anywhere in the country, the heat generated by his father's reputation and fight for political survival at home, is certainly doing no favors to his son's desire to win the Governorship. One would have to speculate how much stronger Rory Reid would be politically now, if his father were retiring, or at least were not up for reelection this year.

Nevada and Las Vegas are well known for gambling, and right now, the smart money is definitely on Sandoval and the election coming up red. While Gibbons looked like a probable (but not certain) loser to Reid, Sandoval has led his opponent by double digits in every poll. A Rasmussen Reports survey out this morning now even shows the Republican ahead by an overwhelming 25 points. When "leaners" are taken into consideration, Sandoval reaches 60 percent of the vote. The personal favorability ratings between the two nominees also show a stark distinction.

The family dynamic in the Reid family has to be fascinating. The patriarch has long taken steps to harm or neutralize any Republican in the state who may pose a threat to either him or to his son. When President Bush nominated Sandoval to the bench in 2005, Harry Reid must have thought that the promising Hispanic-American politician was done with elective office and could pose no threat to either Reid. Harry may have gotten the general election opponent he wanted, but even if he hangs on, the political career of his son may take a long time to recover.

As for Sandoval, who is poised to defeat the scion of the Reid Dynasty to go along with an incumbent Governor of his own party, he will face challenges as Governor, but will likely start off with high favorables and much goodwill at home. He should be a political figure to keep an eye on over the next decade.

Sandoval campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 5 D, 16 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 12 D, 22 R