The morning after both men won their respective gubernatorial primaries, Republican Adam Laxalt’s campaign rushed out an ad going straight for a multi-million dollar judgment Democratic opponent Steve Sisolak won at taxpayers’ expense a dozen years ago (via @SteveSebelius):
A few things:
First, Sisolak’s case centered in large part on whether there had been a “regulatory taking” when Clark County placed building height restrictions on property Sisolak owned near McCarran International Airport. The restriction, so the argument went, lowered the property’s value – effectively taking value away from Sisolak – thus entitling him to compensation.
“Regulatory takings” has long been a rallying cry among some Republicans, part of their overall complaint about “burdensome” regulations and government “overreach.” Republicans won’t flock to Sisolak because he stood up to government and won. And branding one’s opponent as “corrupt” right out of the box is usually sound strategy (more on that below), whatever the perceived or alleged source of corruption. But in terms of driving the Republican base to the polls on Nov. 6, accusing someone of winning a takings suit seems a tad incongruous.
Second – and with respect to charges of corruption and cronyism lodged in Laxalt’s ad – will it suppress turnout among people who are inclined to vote against Laxalt? Painful though it is to admit, it appears that voters in Nevada, where being “juiced up” is perceived as a virtue as much a vice, seem inordinately inured to corruption allegations.
In the last two years, today’s Republican nominees for U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor, Dean Heller and Michael Roberson, respectively, have mercilessly tagged today’s Republican nominee for the third congressional district, Danny Tarkanian, as incorrigibly corrupt. Tarkanian clobbered Roberson two years ago anyway. And Heller won his primary only after Trump told Tarkanian to get out of the race and run for Congress instead. Now they’re all supporting each other. It would not be unreasonable for voters – especially casual ones – to easily tune out ads like Laxalt’s.
Finally – and with respect to voters not bothering to pay attention – Laxalt’s ad, like a plethora if not a majority of political ads, has absolutely nothing to do with anything that matters in the everyday lives of working Nevadans navigating economic and structural systems that will eat them up and spit them out without a moment’s notice when something goes sideways.
The campaign-industrial complex has demonstrated time and again that it has no interest whatsoever in that last point. The campaign industry’s mission is to win elections, not make the world a better place. Issues that matter, such as wages and working conditions and so much more, can be, well, complicated, especially when truly workable solutions are so often frowned upon by powerful people who bankroll, and thus exert influence on, campaigns.
It is much easier, hence vastly preferred by campaign professionals (and certainly not just those who have Laxalt as a client), to spend lavishly on the televised destruction of your opponent’s conduct and character, in the hope that if people aren’t going to vote for your candidate, maybe they’ll at least blow the whole thing off out of disgust and not vote at all.
Laxalt’s campaign, and the 2018 cycle generally, promises to be intensely, harshly and, ultimately, absurdly negative. It also promises to aggressively and deliberately ignore real problems. The two facts are not unrelated.