By Chuck Muth
Nevada’s race for U.S. Senate in 2022 will be one to the top three seats contested for control of Congress in Washington, DC. Sam Brown is one of the GOP candidates and was featured in a recent Las Vegas Review-Journal article. But he’ll have to get past Adam Laxalt in the GOP primary before getting to the general against Democrat incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto-Reid.
Sam was severely injured by an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He has an extremely compelling story. And no one doubts he’d be a FAR more conservative vote than the Democrat incumbent. But his problem is overcoming the most important question on GOP voters’ minds these days… Can he win?
And you don’t overcome that concern with cookie-cutter talking-point quotes such as: “I’m not doing this because I want to be a career
politician. I’m doing this out of a sense of duty.”
Purity of motive is no substitute for articulating a credible, believable path to victory. And it doesn’t give voters much confidence that Sam ran for the state Legislature five years ago and lost. In the primary. And not in Nevada, but in TEXAS.
If he couldn’t win a state legislative seat in a GOP primary in Texas, why should Nevada voters believe he can win a statewide U.S. Senate seat here? It’s a serious, legitimate question that thus far remains unanswered by his campaign.
And, no, repeating a political cliché that “It’s time for someone of the people, by the people, for the people to take on the establishment” doesn’t answer the “Can he win?” question.
Look, I’m as anti-political establishment as anyone. But it’s not enough to simply “take on” the establishment. You have to have a REALISTIC plan to BEAT the establishment. And I haven’t seen that in Sam’s campaign yet.
And here’s an even bigger problem in that regard… Who’s the #1 anti-political establishment figure in America today? That’s right. Donald “Drain the Swamp” Trump. And he’s already come out in support of Laxalt. So what Sam’s campaign is saying is he’s running against… Trump? How’s that work in a GOP primary in 2022?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not shilling for Laxalt. He’s got his own serious problems, though different, in the “path to victory” department despite being the obvious front-runner.
He, too, moved back to Nevada only a couple years before Sam did. And in his race for attorney general in the “red wave” election of 2014,
Laxalt eked out the victory by fewer than 5,000 votes out of over 500,000 cast.
In fact, Laxalt was the ONLY statewide Republican candidate that year to receive less than 50 percent of the vote (46.2 percent). Not
exactly an electoral colossus.
Then there was his rather un-inspiring campaign for governor four years later in which he lost to Steve Sisolak, garnering an even
SMALLER percentage of the vote (45.3 percent).
Hang on. It gets worse.
Many conservatives will tell you a major reason for Laxalt’s failure that year was his terrible judgment in choosing former Nevada State
Sen. “Tax Hike Mike” Roberson — who led the effort to pass the largest tax hike in Nevada history in 2015 — as his lieutenant governor
There were LOTS of conservatives who didn’t vote for Laxalt for that reason and that reason only. And you’d think he’d have at least learned a lesson from that blunder. But it appears not.
The Laxalt campaign is giving every indication that it’s mooring its ship to the Titanic of Nevada politics, Dean “Never Trump” Heller,
who’s running for governor this year after losing his U.S. Senate seat the same year Laxalt lost his gubernatorial race.
Laxalt lost a race he was expected to win for an “open” seat, while Heller couldn’t win re-election as a deep-pocketed incumbent. And now
they’re going to again be at the top of the GOP’s ticket against a pair of Democrat incumbents in 2022? What could go wrong?
This is potentially a huge problem for Laxalt.
It seems to me Sam’s only shot at nabbing the GOP nomination next year is to credibly persuade Republican voters that he, not Laxalt, has the best chance to beat Cortez-Masto-Reid in the general. He hasn’t made that case. And you don’t make that case by saying…
“At the end of the day, Adam Laxalt can have every endorsement he wants, but the only endorsement I’m looking for is the vote of
Nevadans.” Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt.
In the 2022 GOP primaries the only endorsement that will matter and make a big difference — absent some dramatic change on the political
battlefield — is Trump’s. And Laxalt’s got that one.
Not saying it’s right. Not saying it’s wrong. Saying it’s reality. My advice to Mr. Brown — which he will almost certainly ignore – is to change battle plans and run for a seat in the Nevada Legislature.
Let’s see if he can win there first, rather than trying to start at the top.
My advice to Mr. Laxalt — which he also will almost certainly ignore — is to run, not walk, as far and as fast as he can from Heller, the
most toxic, anti-Trump GOP candidate in Nevada today. Elections are about winning. There are no “participation trophies.”
As Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” A Laxalt-Heller top-of-the-ticket is a recipe for electoral
And like the Heller-Laxalt ticket in 2018, it could again drag the rest of the GOP down with them for another last-place finish. How
Coming up next: Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District race — including an outrageous consultant extortion threat you ain’t gonna believe!
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Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News& Views and blogs at MuthsTruths.com