Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 | 2 a.m.
As the Republican presidential hopefuls arrive in Nevada, I want to take some time to welcome them to our fair state and graciously provide some helpful pointers:
• Just because Steve Wynn can’t say it right …pronounce the name correctly. Please. It is not, as Wynn says, Ne-vah-duh; it’s Ne-vad-a. Practice it in front of the mirror. Put a phonetic pronouncer in the prompter. Or just memorize it. You can be sure we in the media will be listening.
• We are three states in one: Nevada has two urban areas and a vast, rural expanse. The people in Las Vegas don’t care about the other two areas, so feel free to make “cow county” and “biggest little city in the world” jokes when you are in Southern Nevada. The folks in Reno think the South wants to rise up and steal money from them (shhh — it’s true), so say, “Las Vegas,” with a sneering tone when you are there. The rural folks have a real inferiority complex (I don’t know why), so pretend you really enjoy being with them and that will be enough. Some numbers to remember, too: Even though the rurals are the most Republican counties, 60 percent of the state’s GOP voters are in Clark County and 21 percent are in Washoe County. So that one stop you are making in Elko really is enough.
• The third rail of Nevada politics: The media are more obsessed with Yucca Mountain than most regular folks. But because the media are omnipotent, you better come up with something better than what most of you used in the debates. I wouldn’t use the phrase “sound science,” either — we’ve heard that one before. I would focus on a simple pander and hope no one follows up: “I can promise you as president that I will never put the health, safety and welfare of Nevadans at risk.” It has worked for many Nevada candidates, so it’s worth a shot.
• The governor will be in Switzerland: Even though he’s not as popular as you might think, Gov. Brian Sandoval is a hit with GOP voters. But don’t bother kissing his ring unless you want to talk about those football crooks at his alma mater (Ohio State) or find out how a court case can help you break a no-new-taxes pledge. Sandoval endorsed Rick Perry out of friendship, but the governor is in once-burned, twice-shy mode. I’d say he’s more of a Mitt Romney guy than any of the others, but he will never say so. Go see him, if you will, and make sure he takes you to eat at the exquisite Adele’s in Carson City, but don’t expect an endorsement.
• Every other person is not a Mormon: I know you want to suck up to the LDS community, but here are some numbers you may not know: Mormons make up 7 percent — that’s not a typo — of the state’s population. Yes, the GOP electorate is disproportionately affected — exit polls in ’08 showed a quarter of the voters were LDS, but some insiders think that exaggerated the church turnout by at least 5 percent. It is expected to be in the high teens this time, which will have an impact. But most — overwhelmingly — of the folks who will caucus Saturday are not Mormon. The reason Mitt Romney, who will win 90 percent of those voters, is expected to win is not only because of the LDS vote but because he has had presence here, has an organization and has smart people (consultant Ryan Erwin, most notably) working for him.
• Brush up on your Italian motifs: Sure, Wynn will get involved at some point. But the guy you want to try to get an audience with is the one who built the Venetian and the Palazzo. Yes, Sheldon Adelson is with Newt Gingrich, but the man who has an eye for Newt now will want to place his money elsewhere to defeat the president if Gingrich does not win. It can’t hurt to knock on his door.
• Nevadans are not aliens: Whether you are in Las Vegas or Reno or Elko or any of the other Nevada communities, you will discover that this state’s denizens have the same hopes, dreams and worries as everywhere else. Yes, most other states don’t have legal brothels along the rural highways or glittering palaces along the main drag. But most other states also don’t have the depth of the foreclosure crisis we have here or the level of unemployment we have. I often get asked by national media folks, “So what are Nevadans really concerned about?” as if we have three eyes and six limbs. As Rod Serling once put it: People are the same all over. Yes, even on the planet Nevada.