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July 24, 2014

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POLITICAL MEMO:

In politics, spoils go to those who have fun

In politics you can often tell which party, candidate or movement is winning by what could be called the “fun gap.”

By this I mean: Which side is having more fun? Which candidate looks like he’s really enjoying himself on the hustings? Which commentator is gleeful in his prose?

You can tell they’re having fun because they’re the candidate, the party, the movement with the enthusiastic kids, the good-looking scenesters and the pop culture power.

Ronald Reagan always looked like he was having fun out there, with a smirk and a crook of the head and a “Well, there you go again.” Then there were the quips that insulated him from weaknesses: “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”

Jimmy Carter was a joyless fellow with sad sweaters, a man guilty with “lust in his heart,” busy turning down the thermostat and telling Americans to expect less from life. What a buzz-kill.

Reagan had more fun, and Republicans dominated the era. His party dominated among young people. Alex P. Keaton had more fun than his liberal parents and their earnest public TV-ness.

This is about the time Rush Limbaugh began attracting millions of listeners. The man was ecstatic, exuberant in his knife throwing.

Then Bill Clinton came around, with his saxophone and the patented biting of the lip. The man loved politics more than life itself. President George H.W. Bush? He hated politics. Give him a conference table with world leaders who hated each other, and he was happy. But politics? Nothing but a chore, a necessary evil. Who won?

Never much of a son to his father, President George W. Bush loves politics. He looked like he was in heaven as he leaned on the lectern and made some preposterous straw-man argument about Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. There was Dubya, wearing full-on smirk as he listened to the chorus of “Flip, flop!” being recited by the lusty Republican crowd.

In 2006 the liberal bloggers and Jon Stewart had all the fun, while conservative talk radio was whiny, defensive and bitter. Limbaugh all but said he was tired of carrying water for the White House (talk about no fun!).

This year Illinois Sen. Barack Obama controlled the fun gap for a while, but now New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is lapping it up. (Recall what she said about negative politics: “Now comes the fun part.”)

In Nevada, Rep. Dean Heller has fun, as does Rep. Shelley Berkley. (Call Sen. Harry Reid the chief exception to this rule, though the occasional half-smile looks mischievous.)

State Sen. Bob Beers, with his wide grin and snappy sound bites, is always having fun. He’s the perpetual insurgent, and what’s more fun than that? At the recent Republican state convention, however, Rep. Ron Paul supporters were having all the fun. Beers was the chairman of the convention, e.g., their enemy, and I assure you, he was not having fun. (The convention ended prematurely without choosing delegates. Beers had to be escorted out, like some preacher caught with his hand in the till.)

Rep. Jon Porter?

Except maybe when he’s playing the keys for his cheesy band, he doesn’t really look like he’s having much fun, on the rare occasions you see him.

That brings us to state Sen. Dina Titus, who launched her campaign against Porter last week at a raucous rally.

When Titus was beating up on Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson during the 2006 Democratic primary, she looked like she was having a blast. Against Gov. Jim Gibbons, her campaign’s financial problems, and her own insecurities about whether the Democratic establishment really supported her, weighed her down. She wasn’t having much fun.

At her kickoff last week, surrounded by longtime friends and suddenly former rivals, she smiled at her own non sequitur, calling on Porter to run a positive campaign while sticking the shiv in his side.

“Jon, you’re obviously not listening to the people,” she said. Then she wound up and delivered an always-fun attack line, a version of which was used by Clinton-Gore and then Bush-Cheney: “That’s why it’s time for you to go.”

The crowd loved it, and she did too.

Porter better find a way to make this fun.

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