Campaign ‘22: The GOP Primary Money Chase for U.S. Senate
By Chuck Muth
While I’d argue it’s not THE most important race on the ballot in Nevada this election cycle — in my opinion, it’s the governor’s race — the GOP primary for U.S. Senate is easily the most interesting.
There are four candidates filed in this race, but only two are viable: Captain Sam Brown and Adam Laxalt.
This is Laxalt’s race to lose. Then again, so was his 2018 race for governor.
Laxalt has two statewide campaigns under his belt — his loss to Sisolak in 2018 and his barely successful run for Nevada attorney general in the “red wave” election of 2014. So he has very high name recognition. This in addition to running under his famous grandfather’s (Sen. Paul Laxalt) last name instead of his father’s (Sen. Pete Domenici).
He’s also a DC “swamp creature.”
Adam was raised there. Went to elite prep schools there. Worked there. Lived there. Shopped there. Partied there. And developed deep, deep ties to the GOP establishment there before moving to Nevada to run for office a few years ago.
The Anointed One has been endorsed by Donald Trump — which he reminds us of ad nauseum — and other DC establishment figures.
He’s also backed by big-money, third-party special interests — such as the Club for Growth, which recently dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of mailers into the race on his behalf.
And after tanking his gubernatorial race, Laxalt personally cashed in, big time, on his DC connections.
According to financial disclosure reports, Laxalt has raked in some $2.2 million through the law firm Cooper & Kirk in DC, which boasts as alumni Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Tom Cotton, both of whom — surprise, surprise — have also endorsed Laxalt in the race.
In addition, Adam lists income from Breitbart News which, I’m sure coincidentally (not), has run a series of puff-pieces on his campaign.
And if that’s not enough, he’s also aligned himself with, and has been endorsed by, Trump’s nemesis — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. By any and all measures, Laxalt should be running away with this GOP primary against Brown, a virtual unknown before jumping into this race less than a year ago. But he’s not.
Brown, too, moved to Nevada a few years ago after completing three years’ worth of painful rehab in Texas for injuries sustained in Afghanistan when his Humvee as blown up by an IED and he was set on fire with the diesel fuel that soaked him during the explosion.
He’s a war hero. A Purple Heart recipient. And a true inspiration to all. However…
In the world of Nevada politics, he’s a major underdog. No famous political last name. No DC connections. No independent wealth. No nothing. And yet…
In the fundraising department Brown has matched Laxalt almost dollar for dollar — raising over $1 million in each of the last three FEC reporting quarters dating back to last summer when both got into this race.
That wasn’t supposed to happen. Everyone expected Laxalt would blow Sam away (no pun intended) in the money chase.
In fact, if the unknown Brown was able to raise $1 million in each quarter, you’d think Laxalt — with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men behind him — should have been raking in $2-3 million each quarter, especially considering the recent Trump fundraising event at Mara Lago and McConnell’s fundraising event for him in DC.
But it’s even worse than that…
Laxalt’s 2022 first quarter report was not yet posted on the FEC website at the time of publication, so we don’t know all the details yet. However, Brown’s is…and it has some pretty impressive numbers behind the raw fundraising total.
For example, Captain Sam’s financial support in the latest report includes 1,661 Nevada donors, as well as 15,551 other donors from all 50 states. And for all three quarters combined, Brown has attracted 3,600 donors from Nevada and 36,271 nationwide with an average donation of $63.00.
Those are damned impressive numbers for an unknown political novice going up against a DC-anointed super-swamper.
It also exposes the weakness of Laxalt’s strongest card, the Trump card.
As I’ve noted in the past, just because you like pizza doesn’t mean you have to like anchovies. And just because you’re a Trump supporter doesn’t mean you automatically also support Laxalt.
Indeed, as the fundraising figures clearly show, a LOT of Trump supporters are backing Brown.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The wheels haven’t quite come off Laxalt’s campaign apple cart. All that DC money and all those DC connections and those DC consultants on his campaign can still pack a powerful punch. So Laxalt still has to be seen as the front-runner.
Sam Brown’s insurgent, grassroots-fueled campaign is a lot stronger than anyone ever anticipated. And if any candidate was ever poised to lose in a major upset, it’s Adam Laxalt.
And don’t think his handlers and benefactors don’t know it. I received some text messages over the past couple of days from an acquaintance who’s a veteran political operative with DC connections who wrote…
“The Beltway is PISSED at Adam right now.”
Truth is, Laxalt should have put Brown away months ago. He hasn’t. And while Brown is still clearly the underdog in this race, don’t be surprised if all Laxalt’s horses and all Laxalt’s men can’t put The Anointed One in the winner’s circle again.
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Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views and blogs at MuthsTruths.com.