Friday, June 6, 2008 | 2:01 a.m.
I am feeling blue today.
With the Democratic primaries finally over and the general election campaign under way, I am starting to wonder whether my outlook for November has been colored red by history. The Republican nominee has won here in every election since 1964, except for 1992 and 1996, when Ross Perot gave Nevada to Bill Clinton. George W. Bush won here the past two cycles by crushing Al Gore and John Kerry, respectively, outside Clark County.
Why do I think Nevada’s reliably red status might change in 2008? I can think of 10 reasons:
No. 1, the numbers: Four years ago the Republicans had a 9,000-voter lead in the state; now, thanks to the Jan. 19 caucus, the Democrats have a gargantuan 50,000-voter advantage. It’s not inconceivable that by Election Day the Democrats will have doubled their 2004 edge in Southern Nevada, perhaps leading Republicans by 100,000 voters in Clark County. Even if the cows come home to the GOP, a big win down here by Barack Obama could be the difference.
No. 2, the GOP: The Republicans are so fractured that they may have two state conventions, one run by the Ron Paul folks and one by the party apparatchiks. I wonder which one will count. Even though party sugar daddy and Gondolier Numero Uno Sheldon Adelson may help with the money, he is more politically preoccupied nationally these days.
No. 3, the Democratic Party: This machine is being turbocharged by insiders who are major leaguers compared with the Triple-A team in the GOP. They have erected quite the operation over the past couple of years, which should help Obama in 2008 and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010, which may be its real raison d’etre.
No. 4, the Democratic nominee: Obama is no Gore or Kerry — they both lost Elko County by 4-1 margins. Even if Obama can’t do much better, the rurals aren’t exactly in McCain Country. And Obama has much more opportunity to take advantage of the state’s changing registration figures and generate higher turnout by Democrats.
No. 5, the Republican nominee: John McCain only recently found Nevada on a map. He finished third in the caucus and his advocacy for Yucca Mountain cannot be helpful, despite his transparent attempts now to soften his position. Not too many people here will cast votes based on the dump, but with Obama saying he would withdraw the licensing application, it could become an issue.
No. 6, Jim Gibbons: How would you like to be the GOP nominee going to a solid red state and having a Republican governor there who not only can’t help you but may be a liability? Wonder how many photo ops McCain and Gibbons will have? When will we see the first Bush-McCain-Gibbons connection made in a Democratic news release or ad?
No. 7, the biggest little Democratic stronghold: Reno, in the heart of Republican Washoe County, has turned Democratic and could be central to the party’s fortunes this cycle. If someone can persuade Obama to spend some time in the urban north, where the potential for crossover votes is great, he could do what only Reid has done with regularity as a Democratic candidate: Mitigate loses in the North to eke out a win.
No. 8, Team Titus: The swing congressional district held by Rep. Jon Porter has swung decisively to the Democrats — 22,000 more Democrats than Republicans are registered to vote there. No candidate against Porter has had more potential to energize the base in this critical area of the South than state Sen. Dina Titus.
No. 9, the benches: With Gibbons sidelined by his anemic approval ratings, whom do the Republicans turn to? Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki? I don’t think so. And that’s the end of it for GOP constitutional officers. Sen. John Ensign? He will be pretty busy trying to stem the bleeding as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And the Democrats not only have some ambitious constitutional officers to use as surrogates — Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, an incipient gubernatorial contender, is also sure to be traversing the state.
No. 10, independent like Nevada: This state is a microcosm of the country, where independents could determine the election. They make up nearly 15 percent of the vote in Nevada and although McCain has appeal to them, Obama will be the first Democratic nominee in years here who will be able to compete for their nonpartisan hearts and minds.
So, if even just for today, I am feeling pretty blue. But like any fickle pundit, whose opinions can change at the slightest provocation, I may turn red again by November.