I tend to shy away from the “look at what we learned” thumbsuckers the day after an election.
Overall themes often obscure underlying dynamics of individual races. The obvious often mashes the subtle. The results tell a story, but usually only part of it.
There is a lot to say about what happened in Nevada on Tuesday – today and later – but only a few things are crystal clear:
1. Registration matters
2. The Republican Party is irrelevant
3. The Hispanic vote here is a growing and potent force
4. Labor matters
5. Harry Reid is God (or the devil)
I’ll take a look at each of those and also have some other thoughts (in a separate post) on the election that should scare Republicans in this state, but probably won’t because Gov. Brian Sandoval seems safe, Sen. Dean Heller doesn’t have to run for six years and the party "leaders" just don’t seem to get it.
►Registration matters: In May, at the close of registration for the primary election, the Democrats had a 39,000-voter lead over the Republicans in Nevada; in Clark County, the lead was 76,000 voters.
Five months later, at the close of registration for the general election, the statewide edge was 90,000 and the Clark chasm was 127,000 voters. The presidential race in Nevada essentially was over and, though we may not have know it at the time, so was Danny Tarkanian’s fourth bid for office and the GOP efforts to take the state Senate.
The Republicans were left with presenting fantasy math that the Flat Earth Society would have rejected and claiming they had made billions of voter contacts (I think that was the number) that would counteract the vaunted Democratic machine, an amazing integration of OFA and Team Reid.
Gentlemen, you should be embarrassed.
►The Republican Party is irrelevant: Perhaps irrelevant is too mild. They may as well put up a “vacancy” sign outside the party’s headquarters. His father’s illness notwithstanding, Chairman Michael McDonald was an absentee landlord – nearly every release from the party was from Vice-Chairman James Smack.
The Romney campaign and the RNC tried a workaround, but the Ron Paul folks nipping at their heels, a Clark County GOP run by loons and a Washoe party that seceded and became a subset of the National Republican Senatorial Committee were too much to bear. When mailers started appearing from the Idaho and Colorado Republican parties in mailboxes here, the comedy show had devolved to pure farce.
They either adopt a long-term plan or even Sandoval should be worried.
►The Hispanic vote here is a growing and potent force. The exit polls showed 18 percent of the electorate here was Latino – a record and up from the past two cycles’ 15 percent. And President Obama won Hispanics by 40 points.
But it’s more than just those numbers. The Latino presence here – a quarter of the population – keeps growing and there will be more and more signs of its influence. Sandoval has yet to discover how to talk to that community, and he was crushed in that demographic when he first ran. He’s toned down his rhetoric, but it’s still a problem for the popular Gov. Sunny.
Republicans running statewide cannot lose that demographic by huge margins and hope to be successful – or they will bite their nails all night as Sen. Dean Heller did. He may not get so lucky in six years to have such a flawed contender.
The Republicans here – and wayward Democrats, too – better pay attention or their hopes for electoral success will just be a DREAM.
► Labor matters: The irony of this being so in a right-to-work state always amuses. But the labor movement this cycle did as much to boost candidates, up and down the ticket, as in my quarter-century covering politics in the state. They were knocking on doors, cataloguing voters, sending mail pieces.
In key legislative races, perhaps even saving the state Senate for the Democrats, SEIU and AFSCME sent out pieces of mail (some of it outrageous and about federal issues such as Medicare), which probably affected the outcomes. The AFL-CIO, through independent expenditures and voter contacts, was on the ground and in mailboxes, too.
But underpinning the entire effort was, as it always is, the Culinary union. For much of the year, D. Taylor played coy, insisting organizing could preclude politicking, which no one should have taken seriously. When he unleashed his forces, led by political director Yvanna Cancela, they registered and then turned out thousands of voters in Clark County that made a substantial difference. The Culinary also is a key Hispanic turnout machine.
Look upon these works, ye Republicans, and despair.
►Harry Reid is God (or the devil): He built that – the Democratic apparatus, getting rid of the antiquated components and replacing them with skilled, tireless, relentless operatives led by Rebecca Lambe, who is a loyal Reidite and first re-elected him and then preserved his majority through her activity in other Senate races.
Reid remains the Democrat many Republicans (and a few Democrats) love to hate. But he understands power and how to wield it, and he grasped long ago that the local talent pool was too shallow to save him or turn Nevada purple (or is it blue?).
Reid wanted Ross Miller or Catherine Cortez Masto to run for the Senate. But once Rep. Shelley Berkley got in, the majority leader was all in. He made sure she was well funded and gave her a chance to win a race that, after the ethics probe began, she had no business even being close to winning.
It is time, methinks, to start the unauthorized biography. Working Title: "Prince Harry"