From the fact that two prominent members of his own political party have already announced they'll run against him in 2010, you might conclude, as many already have, that Gov. Jim Gibbons no longer has the full confidence of his fellow Republicans. But that's not the message Gibbons takes from the situation.
Asked about it last week, the governor responded, "Why would you say that? What makes you think I don't? Have you done a poll? I don't know what you're even talking about to come to that conclusion. The Republicans I talk to are all coming around saying to me that I'm doing a good job, so I don't know what you're talking about."
It was pointed out that former state Sen. Joe Heck and North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon, the challengers, apparently don't agree.
"I think you've mischaracterized their interest in running for governor," Gibbons said.
Asked to characterize it himself, he said, "Whatever reason they want to run for the state's highest office is a question they have to answer. I've not asked them, you've not asked them, and you're assuming that you know why they're running."
In fact, Political Notebook has asked them, and they have expressed less than full confidence in Gibbons' leadership.
"Well then, you can write about why they're running because I've not talked to them," Gibbons snapped.
The governor also reaffirmed that he plans to run for re-election and welcomed competitors into the race. "I think the more the merrier," he said. "I've never had an easy race in my life, why would I expect a change now?"
Gibbons said he knows both Montandon and Heck but has spoken to neither since they announced their intentions to challenge him, "so I have no idea what their issues are."
He could only assume that they were civic-minded men like himself, intent on serving. "If they are expressing their desire to be part of the government of the state of Nevada and continuing in that role, I applaud them," Gibbons said.
IT WASN'T ME
Gibbons was interviewed before a speaking engagement last week at the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. In his speech, he touted his proposals to promote renewable energy and ridiculed the Legislature: "Now, if you're wondering what our Legislature is accomplishing, well, you're not alone," he said, to laughter. "There's a lot of us that are wondering what they're accomplishing."
Gibbons took the opportunity to boast, "We balanced our budget without raising your taxes." But in order to create a balanced budget, Gibbons relied on $292 million from an increase in the hotel room tax.
That estimate was later determined to be optimistic; the increase of up to 3 percentage points in the room tax in Clark and Washoe counties is now expected to bring in $233 million.
But how could Gibbons claim to have balanced the budget without raising taxes when he used a tax increase to balance the budget?
"I didn't raise it, the people of Nevada raised it," he said in a follow-up interview. "I did not propose it. I used it after the people had voted it in. Do not say I proposed it -- I opposed it. I did not support it, but I put it (in) because it's a reality."
An advisory question about the tax increase was on the November ballot in Clark and Washoe and passed. Separately, backers of the tax submitted signatures on a petition to put the issue before the Legislature.
But neither of these actions by themselves would have made the tax a reality without legislative action. Had Gibbons and the Legislature not taken up the room tax in 2009, the question would have gone on the ballot in 2010.
Gibbons did not sign the measure that came out of the Legislature, but he didn't veto it either, allowing it to become law earlier this month.
He claimed, however, that the 2008 vote made the tax a fait accompli and he had nothing to do with it.
So Gibbons was asked whether he takes responsibility for what was proposed in his budget.
"I put the money in the budget, but I did not propose it. I don't support it," he said. "That's like me saying I support all the taxes that have already been enacted. I used those revenues to my benefit, but I did not propose any tax increase. Get that right in your news article."
GUNS VS. HOOKERS
A Washington, D.C., City Council member is proposing a way to challenge Nevada Sen. John Ensign, whose proposal to strip D.C.'s gun control laws has caused a furor among the city's leaders.
If Ensign wants to impose his views on the district's gun controls, perhaps the district should push Congress to take a long look at Nevada's legalized prostitution, council member Kwame Brown says.
Brown is trying to drum up interest in what he calls the "Roses Amendment." He said it would revise the federal Mann Act that bans the transport of women across state lines for "immoral purposes."
"District residents have fought to rid our community of prostitution in an effort to revitalize our neighborhoods," Brown said. "If elected officials from states, namely Nevada, can introduce legislation that alters the local laws of the district, I believe the district should offer an amendment that imposes our moral values on such states where prostitution is legal."
Brown asked Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's House delegate, to consider introducing such an amendment to a D.C. voting rights bill that has been effectively frozen since Ensign's gun provision was added to it last month.
Brown's amendment would prohibit citizens from crossing state lines to solicit sex in states where prostitution is legal. It would prevent brothels from advertising on the Internet, and it would prohibit Nevada brothels from carrying out credit card transactions with out-of-state banks.
It would put the brothels out of business because only Nevada residents could legally partake of their services. Prostitution is illegal in Clark and Washoe counties but legal in most of the rural counties.
"The federal government would be within its constitutional authority to regulate this type of commerce," Brown said in a letter he sent Wednesday to Hoyer and Norton.
Ensign responded through a spokesman that Brown was trying to "blur the issue" of Second Amendment rights.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that he has raised $2 million for his reelection during the first three months of the year.
That would raise the Nevada Democrat's fundraising for 2010 to more than $7 million and serve as a further disincentive for would-be challengers in Nevada.
"I am sure they are going to find someone to run against me. I have a target on my back and on my front," Reid said, but he added he likes his chances. "I feel comfortable I will be competitive," he said.
Reid said he continues to apply the lessons from his near-disastrous 1998 campaign when he beat Republican John Ensign by only 428 votes.
"I tried to run a campaign in '98 on a shoestring," he said. "I waited (until) late, didn't have a professional fundraiser, just didn't do much."
Reid spoke at a Washington breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. Among the other topics to arise:
• Reid has spoken to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., about switching parties, as have Democrats in Pennsylvania. But those efforts came to an end when Specter came out last week against the union-backed "card check" labor organizing bill, which is favored by most Democrats.
"I think he, in coming out against card check, sort of stopped everyone from being able to help him," Reid said.
Reid surmised Specter, in a difficult race, announced his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act to build support with Republican constituencies back home.
"But it hasn't helped him," Reid said. "In Pennsylvania, he is 26 percent behind in the Republican primary."
• Reid suggested John Roberts misrepresented himself before the Senate during his 2005 confirmation as chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Roberts "didn't tell us the truth," Reid said, without elaborating. "At least (associate Justice Samuel) Alito told us who he was. We are stuck with these two young men, and we are going to try to change that by having some more moderates on the federal court system as time goes on."
Contact reporter Molly Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919.