Sad! (Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)
Remember that one time when the great and powerful Nevada State Democratic Party (Harry Reid, proprietor) was taken over, and the legendary “Reid Machine” just cold ousted from leadership, during a state party convention by upstart Democratic Socialists? And then a bunch of national media went all “oh my stars and garters,” except in mediaspeak? And Nevada Republicans couldn’t stop gloating that “Nevada Democrats are SOCIALISTS!” because of course that’s the sort of thing they put in all caps?
Well. The Nevada Republican Party had a state convention of its own the other day, at which senatorial candidate Adam Laxalt and gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo – both perceived frontrunners in their respective primaries, and both officially endorsed by Donald Trump – were snubbed and drubbed. Instead of endorsing the Big Names, convention attendees overwhelmingly supported Sam Brown for Senate, and Joey Gilbert for governor.
Goodness. Quite the impudent slap in the faces of the GOP’s most revered and promising candidates for top o’ the ballot jobs, no? This sure must be humiliating for Laxalt and Lombardo to see so many stories in the national press about how little support they have from their own party, right?
As it happens, the media coverage has been scant, and even in Nevada. At first the only media organizations that published reports on Saturday’s convention results were a Reno TV station and the Elko paper, followed yesterday by the TV station’s sister outlet in Las Vegas and the Reno paper. That’s about it.
Perhaps that is as it should be. State party conventions are attended by a relative handful of activists. When the Reid Machine lost control of the state party, it wasn’t, as Republicans are fond of saying, because Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Gov. Steve Sisolak are socialists. (As is often the case with things Republicans say, if only t’were true). It’s because the Machine messed up.
And Gilbert winning 206 endorsement votes from said pumped-up activists at a state convention, while Lombardo, on a separate yes-or-no vote, only won 104, hasn’t transformed Gilbert into the frontrunner for the nomination. Nor does Brown receiving endorsement support from 80% of attendees, to poor Laxalt’s mere 50% on a separate yes-or-no delegate vote, mean the legacy Reid Machine, now operating as something called Nevada Democratic Victory, is going to recalibrate its strategy to attack Brown instead of Laxalt.
The national political press isn’t wrong for blowing off Saturday’s Nevada GOP convention results. It was wrong for blowing up the socialist takeover of last year’s Democratic state convention into something that it wasn’t – consequential.
Yet there are angles to last weekend’s GOP convention results that are not uninteresting.
First, it’s perhaps another indication that Laxalt genuinely has cemented his brand as sort of a Nevada version of Eddie Haskell. (For you younger readers, Eddie Haskell was a character in the TV show Leave it to Beaver and is, as Wikipedia puts it, “recognized as an archetype for insincere sycophants.”) Republican voters may stomach Laxalt, taken in by his relentless and well-funded insistence that he’s a somebody and so has the better chance of beating Cortez Masto. But ever since Laxalt moved to Nevada in 2011 for the sole purpose of translating his grandfather’s name recognition into a profession as a career politician, there’s never been much evidence that Republican voters, you know, like him. It is sometimes said that a good politician is one that voters would like to have a beer with. Nobody wants to have a beer with Adam Laxalt.
Second, Lombardo’s poor showing at the convention reflects his tenuous relationship with the Republican faithful and the Trump base. If Lombardo’s the nominee all will be forgotten – in the 2022 general election, a whipped-up perpetually aggrieved white right will show up to vote for any animal, mineral or vegetable that has an R after its name. But Gilbert’s connection to the true believers is visceral. Lombardo’s is forced and strained.
But of course the most interesting thing about the convention’s dissing of Laxalt and Lombardo is that both candidates have been endorsed by Trump. Ever since Republicans jilted their ever so brief flirtation with the radical woke concept of distancing themselves from Trump after Jan. 6, the party and its candidates have become more, not less obsequious to Trump. His endorsement should be – as Dean Heller famously declared about everything touched by Trump’s fingers – gold, right? And Trump’s endorsement propelled J.D. Vance, one of multiple fellow celebrity grifters Trump has endorsed this cycle, to victory in his Ohio Senate primary Tuesday.
No one doubts that Republicans at the convention who preferred Brown and Gilbert over Laxalt and Lombardo have spent the last several years marinating in the pungent brine of Trumpism. And yet, they might also be some of the same people who, the very evening Trump endorsed Lombardo, were attending a Laxalt event starring Florida man Ron DeSantis – some of whom would prefer DeSantis, not Trump, to be the Republican nominee in 2024. Republican voters are showing signs that they are ready and willing to carry the (tiki) torch for Trumpism, with or without Trump himself.
Their appetite for white grievance red meat and “sticking it to the libs” is seemingly insatiable, and Republican politicians in Nevada, as in the nation, have shown, almost universally, that they are following the base, not leading it.
Gilbert or Lombardo, Brown or Laxalt – one or the other of them might matter when it comes to politics. Gilbert anyway would be easier for Democrats to beat.
But from a policy standpoint, it’s a wash. If any of the Republican hopefuls end up winning the general election in November, then much like the results of the state convention, whichever one it is really doesn’t matter.
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