President Bill Clinton’s speech on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid last week had a folksy story with a lesson about how seemingly simple decisions can have unintended consequences.
Less than 24 hours later, Team Reid found itself learning just such a lesson.
Clinton’s story, made during a talk in front of about 1,250 Reid for Governor supporters at House of Blues in Mandalay Bay, was a parable about a Cajun man who was angry at his friend for repeatedly slapping his shirt pocket and ruining his fine cigars.
He got so fed up he decided to replace the cigars with dynamite so the next time his buddy slapped his shirt pocket would be the last, a plan of attack that had an obvious problem.
“You might get exactly what you don’t want,” Clinton said, summing up the moral of his parable about unintended consequences.
Had Reid’s team been paying attention, they might have avoided misfiring in a major attack on Brian Sandoval, Reid’s Republican opponent.
The attack, backed by a huge ad buy on statewide television, was in the form of an ad criticizing Sandoval for introducing and shepherding a banking bill through the Legislature in 1997, when Sandoval was a member of the Assembly.
The idea was to paint Sandoval as a tool of the banking lobbyists who backed the bill, a seemingly safe play in Nevada, where foreclosures are rampant and banks are about as popular as a stick in the eye.
The ad also referenced Sandoval’s close relationship with lobbyists Pete Ernaut and Greg Ferraro, who encouraged Sandoval as he left his job as a federal judge to run for governor.
What Team Reid missed — and Team Sandoval gleefully pointed out — was that Dan Reaser, a partner at Lionel, Sawyer & Collins, where Reid now works, was a main lobbyist on the bank bill.
Records also show the bill passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and was signed by Gov. Bob Miller, a Democrat.
Sandoval’s team also dragged out a 2001 quote from Reid, talking about his own lobbying and highlighting that Reid isn’t the ideal spokesman for an outsider, anti-lobbyist message.
“I don’t think (being a lobbyist) presents a problem,” Reid said at the time. “Lobbyists are part of the process.”
So, instead of the focus on Sandoval’s seemingly cozy ties with lobbyists, and Sandoval’s reluctance to engage reporters on the subject, political pundits instead emphasized Team Reid’s oversight.
Still, it’s unlikely many typical voters who will see the well-produced ad over and over in the coming weeks will be as aware of the oversight as will insiders, meaning the Sandoval-lobbyist meme still has a chance to take off even if it sputtered at the launch.
Despite the rocky launch of the Sandoval lobbying ad, Reid’s campaign had more highs than lows last week, which is good for him considering polls show he is running as much as 16 percentage points behind the Republican, although insiders think the race is closer.
In addition to attracting more than 1,200 supporters to Clinton’s Wednesday pep talk, legendary activist Dolores Huerta dropped by Reid’s Bonanza Road office Friday afternoon and provided a morale boost.
Reid considers the organization he has been building since late 2008 an advantage down the stretch and thinks visits from folks such as Clinton and Huerta will ensure volunteers stay in good spirits.
It appeared to be working Friday.
When Huerta walked in, everyone in the office came to a standstill and listened intently.
“This is the way that you really learn about politics, and you are also making Democracy work,” said Huerta, a prominent activist since the 1960s who helped Cesar Chavez organize the United Farm Workers union. “You have to get people in who are going to fight for you that is really the important thing to do.”
In an interview afterward, Huerta said that even though the current political climate appears to favor Republicans and candidates who want to take a hard line on immigration, she thinks the long-term trend bodes well for Democrats and people who favor a more inclusive brand of politics.
Huerta likened the current climate that produced legislation such as SB1070 in Arizona, which aims to drive illegal immigrants out of Arizona but has been widely opposed by many Hispanic voters, to the environment that produced Proposition 187 in California in 1994.
Although it was eventually overturned in court, the California law that attempted to deny illegal immigrants access to many public services motivated Hispanics to be more politically active, Huerta said.
“After that law was passed, you had about 1 million Latinos who became citizens and another million that registered to vote that hadn’t registered to vote,” Huerta said.
She said she expects the same response to SB1070 and other proposals deemed anti-immigrant.
“I think you are going to see a very similar reaction. You are going to see a lot more people becoming citizens. You are going to see a lot more people being active and voting,” she said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@review journal.com; or 702-477-3861.POLITICAL EYE BLOG