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‘Will support whoever’: Lombardo stays neutral in GOP presidential primary

Updated August 5, 2023 - 5:55 pm

Gov. Joe Lombardo seems to be staying out of the 2024 presidential primary discourse, walking a fine tightrope to appease different voters.

When asked during a news conference Friday whether he would support former President Donald Trump — who faces a swath of other GOP challengers in his Oval Office bid — Lombardo said he “will support whoever is successful in the primary.”

Local political science experts say they aren’t surprised by the first-term governor’s hesitation to back a particular candidate.

Leading up to the 2022 general election, Lombardo distanced himself from Trump, who gave the Clark County sheriff his endorsement ahead of the Republican primary, according to Dan Lee, a UNLV political science professor.

His approach then — and now — is to appeal to the more moderate voter, Lee said.

Lombardo does not want to alienate moderate voters, but Lee also said there might not be a Republican candidate the governor likes.

“Even if there was one, he wouldn’t want to come out and support someone that eventually would lose,” Lee said. When someone comes out with an endorsement, they want to be confident that the candidate is actually going to win, or else they could look “out of step,” he said.

If Lombardo were to support a candidate other than Trump, he also risks mobilizing Trump supporters against him, according to Lee.

David Damore, a political science professor at UNLV and the interim executive director of the Lincy Institute and Brookings Mountain West, said Lombardo does not have experience navigating national politics. By not voicing support for Trump, he is able to side-step Trump’s baggage.

“Also, by staying neutral he will be able to advocate for the state’s interests with any of the GOP candidates that bother to campaign in Nevada,” Damore said in an email to the Review-Journal.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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