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December 20, 2014

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Titus may give Porter a run for his money

Maybe I was wrong.

I know what you are thinking: Not possible. Or: Not again?

Either way, it might be true. After state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus lost to Jim Gibbons in the 2006 gubernatorial race, I wrote that her career was like Dick Cheney’s erstwhile view of the Iraqi insurgency. But instead of Titus’ political life being in its last throes, the abrupt departure of Robert Daskas from the race against Rep. Jon Porter may have revivified her.

Nobody knows better than political science professor Titus that timing is everything in this game. And she is smart enough to realize that with registration numbers in Congressional District 3 favoring any Democratic candidate, with her name ID much better than Robert Who? and with her performance against Gibbons in CD3 (she won by 2 points there when the district wasn’t so Democratic-friendly), how does she say no?

I don’t think she will, and she is likely to announce within the next day or so.

Remember, Titus defeated Gibbons in Porter’s district after months of being lampooned as Dina Taxes and of falsely being accused by Gibbons of supporting driver’s licenses for immigrants. And professor Titus surely understands that a race for Congress generally evinces more partisan voting patterns than a gubernatorial contest. And the numbers do not lie:

At the end of 2006, Democrats had a 1,907-voter advantage over the Republicans in Porter’s district. The CD3 numbers today: There are 22,500 more Democrats.

Add in a potentially toxic atmosphere for Republicans in 2008, perhaps even more so than in ’06, and Titus will be hard-pressed to demur. Yes, she has rebounded from that gubernatorial loss to get excited about the potential of taking the majority in the state Senate for the first time in her leadership career. But that is far from a certainty, and the lack of a credible challenger to Republican Joe Heck has hurt the Democrats and the chances of knocking off the only other possibly vulnerable Republican, Bob Beers, are no better than 50-50, if that.

Titus also can, for the first time, count on the full support of author Harry Reid, who is sure to bring the good fight to the CD3 race so Porter can’t give him a good fight in 2010. Titus will revel in the deliciousness of having Reid at her beck and call after the Meddler in Chief has blocked her path to other offices before. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

So the path for Titus seems clear on paper. But there are a few buts.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee folks have been on red alert since news of Daskas’ pending withdrawal wafted D.C.-ward late last week. They can murmur now that Daskas was never their first choice he was about the seventh but he was in, was organizing and had banked $450,000. And unlike Titus, he doesn’t have a long legislative record to pick apart, including billions of dollars in tax increases.

That latter issue is the one Dina Taxes has to find a way to navigate, because Porter surely will appropriate the Gibbons theme. How does she do that?

It is true that after scores of ads calling her Dina Taxes, she still defeated Gibbons in CD3. But Porter’s campaign style is to find or manufacture an opponent’s weakness and drive it home: Dario Herrera’s ethics, Tom Gallagher’s carpetbaggery, Tessa Hafen’s faux carpetbaggery. Porter is a relentless message machine and his campaign abilities improve each cycle, so expect him to be as focused on taxes as Gibbons was.

Porter, though, has yet to face an opponent as resourceful and quick as Titus, nor one who so relishes the hurly-burly. Titus, having served with Porter, also knows him well and will not be shy about doing to him what she did to Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson a sustained, occasionally vicious assault on his character and voting record.

I know what some Republicans and even some Democrats are thinking: Titus’ grating Southern accent helped cost her the governor’s race and her style will cause her to lose CD3. But the races are hardly analogous and many voters in CD3, when given the choice between Titus’ unhappy accent and Porter’s Bushian support score, may find the former less offensive.

So maybe I was wrong to have written Titus off in the mercurial world of Nevada politics. We will find out. Assuming Titus enters the race, by November we will know whether I was prescient about her career in 2006 or my crystal ball was cracked.

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