As our nation turns a page from a historic and bitterly fought election cycle in 2020, the eyes of politicos and twitter sleuths alike are laser-focused upon the 2022 midterm cycle – a sure referendum on both the Biden presidency and the current, evolving state of the GOP. Paramount within their sights are competitive states which may prove pivotal in determining the composition of our House, Senate, governorships, and state legislative seats.
A proud, lifelong resident of Nevada, a perpetually close state with a baby-blue hue, I have considered the ramifications of my state’s elections within the broader scope of our politics. Our current governor, whose cumbersome restrictions on human assemblage have left many worried for the future, looms large over the minds of everyday Nevadans as we approach the 2022 election season. Concurrently, the fate of the Senate will likely rest on the upcoming Senate race, with Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto facing off against some Nevada Republican.
A Thin Line
These crucial pivot points for our national politics present several opportunities for state Republicans, decimated by a blue near-sweep of row offices in 2018 and persistent presidential successes for Democrats, to reinvigorate their brand. To achieve any success in upcoming statewide races, and lest they continue to constitute a voiceless minority in Carson City, they must adopt a business-friendly technique that readily addresses our state’s crippling unemployment rate and economic conditions, appeals to working-class Nevadans of all backgrounds, and reflects their personal investment within the economic stability of our state. It is precisely for these reasons that former Governor Brian Sandoval should not be floated as a viable candidate for Senate.
I realize this may offend the senses of many of my friends and peers who wish for the GOP to hearken to an era of “coastalism,” aristocracy, and decorum. For myself and my fellow Nevadans, who have witnessed first-hand the deafening pulse of our state, these principles are pure anathema. And these are themes which cannot – and must not – assume any prominent role within our industrious, service-oriented economy. This is not to say these are not noble qualities; however, we Nevadans function best as a forthright, down-to-earth people.
When uncovering the axiomatic meaning of this, then it will come as no surprise that unlike its neighboring states, where large swaths of educated suburbanites rejected wholesale Trumpism in the 2020 presidential election, Nevada in fact inched rightward when compared to the 2016 race. In the eyes of many, the Trump name resounds across the glitzy Las Vegas Strip and evokes an ideal which many aspire to themselves emulate – one of imminency, tenacity, and hard work. The new GOP, as opposed to the Romneyan ancien régime, registers well with Nevadan Republicans.
No Reason to Run
The former Republican governor is a good man – a man of decency and character, of conciliation and bipartisanship, and perhaps someone who embraces a bygone paradigm of modern Republicanism. Yet there exists no legitimate reason for him to throw his hand in the ring for Senate. Notwithstanding his comfortable current gig as President of the University of Nevada, Reno, a position he would be remiss to abandon, his extensive résumé would hardly animate state Republicans. His two terms as governor were defined by his olive-branched approach with his Democratic legislative colleagues. This sentiment that was rarely felt by Republicans when they controlled the state legislature during the 2015 session. Austere Republicans in the state will never let this moment – what they saw as a wasted opportunity for meaningful conservative legislation – wane from their memory.
No doubt, there are some suburban demographics who would be compelled to vote for the Republican solely under these pretenses – look to the communities of Henderson and Summerlin South for reference – but this would mark a Pyrrhic victory; low-propensity and arch-conservative Republican voters would not be enthused. As is the case in several other rapidly growing, heavily suburban states like Virginia, Georgia, and Arizona, the Republican primary aggregate for Nevada’s statewide positions departs heavily from the mean voter. In other words, a candidate like Brian Sandoval, who could theoretically be viable within a Senate election, would be dead on arrival during the primary season. This would present the first major hurdle for candidate Sandoval. It would prove virtually insurmountable if more Trumpian candidates opposed him during the primary.
Sandoval’s path to victory in the general election is also rather nebulous. There is no clear-cut coalition currently present to propel him to victory. Cortez-Masto remains a formidable candidate who galvanizes progressive and mainstream-liberal Nevadans. In the case of non-presidential, non-Trumpian election, and coupled with the antagonistic sway of the “Reid machine,” the mission to juice rural turnout for Republicans may be rendered impossible if a moderate like Sandoval runs.
The former governor is not liked among conservative, rural Nevadans. Despite the Republican statewide share of the gubernatorial vote dropping from 70.6% to 45.3% from 2014 to 2018, Republicans performed better in the latter election in several rural counties like White Pine. Furthermore, Republican paths to statewide victory now run through decreased Democratic margins among working-class minorities in Clark County rather than padded margins in Washoe County, a left-trending county home to Reno and Sandoval’s stomping grounds. This means a Sandoval candidacy appears progressively unlikely.
So, it is perhaps to the chagrin of my politically moderate and establishment peers that Brian Sandoval would be a relatively weak contender for Nevada’s upcoming Senate race. Nevadans like myself will continue to enshrine the governor’s robust and honorable legacy during his time in Carson City – though you will not be seeing me distributing placards and yard signs for his candidacy. In my honest opinion, there are certainly leaders within our great state who can better attract, animate, and represent our dynamic and diverse electorate.