Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., removed a big political hurdle between Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and a fifth consecutive term in the U.S. Senate. Himself.
Heller opted to stick with his seemingly safe perch in the House of Representatives instead of gambling on a challenge to Reid, despite the latter’s low approval rating with Nevada voters.
But Heller or no Heller, Reid will still have to face some sticky issues in what will undoubtedly be a costly, tough campaign no matter which Republican takes the challenge.
One line of attack the challenger may choose would be to go directly at one of Reid’s supposed strengths: the clout he gives Nevada by being Senate majority leader.
Republican consultants are already kicking around how they’ll make the argument that Reid isn’t using his position to benefit the state.
They’re planning to say Nevada ranks dead last in terms of how much money, per capita, comes to the state from Washington, D.C.
As evidence they point to a 2007 report from the U.S. Census Bureau that shows Nevada gets back about $6,000 per capita from the federal government, the lowest of the 50 states and well below the median of a little more than $8,000.
An April 29, 2008, report in the Reno Gazette-Journal affirmed the ranking.
But the article, by reporter Steve Timko, put much of the blame on Carson City leaders, not Reid. The report didn’t even mention Reid.
According to the report, much of the money from the feds comes in the form of matching state spending. If state elected officials are stingy, the feds don’t send as much money.
Also, Nevada’s percentage of senior citizens is lower than the rest of the nation, so less Social Security and Medicare money comes to the Silver State.
Nevada also makes people fill out a 12-page form to get food stamps, as opposed to a two-page application in California, the report said. That drives down participation and results in less federal spending.
Still, it’s a good bet ads attacking Reid will skip the nuance and hone in on two words. Dead last.
Most Nevadans don’t know Ryan Erwin by name, but they probably have seen his work. Erwin, of Ryan Erwin & Associates, worked with consultant Sig Rogich on a successful 2004 campaign that featured ads showing doctors walking along a desert highway to escape potential increases in medical malpractice insurance by fleeing the state.
The controversial, but effective, ads were derided by critics as being an example of emotionally manipulative advertising.
But Erwin, a Republican who specializes in health care issues, is no hardened cynic. When he gets to talking about health care reform he can sound like a starry-eyed optimist.
During a recent interview, Erwin made a good case for Democrats driving the health care bus and Republicans kicking and screaming on the sidelines to put policy ahead of politics.
“Once we put that aside for the good of the people, there really can be real reforms that are positive,” Erwin says.
Specifically, he says Republicans should keep pressing the case for tort reform and an end to needless medical tests aimed at insulating doctors from lawsuits, also called defensive medicine.
He says those reforms alone could provide reformers, such as President Barack Obama, billions of dollars they could spend elsewhere.
So far, though, either Republicans have been unwilling or unable to articulate the case for those reforms or Democrats, who get lots of money from trial lawyers who oppose tort reform, aren’t listening.
That’s too bad, Erwin says.
“When the rhetoric gets so hot there is no room for logic. That’s what is wrong with the partisanization of Congress,” Erwin said.
Speaking of partisan rhetoric, it’s always a good time to remember that folks on both sides of the aisle are still people who think, feel and laugh.
So let’s close with this joke that once hung on a tavern wall in La Crosse, Wis.
The bar was situated in a working-class part of La Crosse, a blue-collar town known for making and drinking beer, manufacturing and hard-core Democratic tendencies. The joke plays on the elephant and donkey symbols that represent the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.
It went something like this: “So, you’re a Republican and I’m a Democrat. That’s OK, we can still be friends. I’ll hug your elephant and you can kiss my ass.”
If anyone else has some good political jokes to share, send them to the e-mail address at the end of this column and we’ll do our best to get them into print. It doesn’t matter if Democrats or Republicans are the butt of the humor, we’re equal opportunity jokers. Although to some folks we’re just jokers.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.