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It’s not a gaffe when you’re telling the truth

Poor Pat Hickey: He’s on the chopping block for telling the truth.

Hickey, R-Reno, the Assembly Republican leader, showed up on the Dan Mason AM radio show up north for an hourlong interview this week, during which he predicted good things for Republicans in the 2014 election. There’s no Democrat (yet) at the top of the ticket, no U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on the ballot and probably 300,000 fewer voters than in 2012. Why?

“A lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a nonpresidential year. It’s a great year for the Republicans,” Hickey said.

And that’s absolutely true, because a lot of minorities and a lot of younger people don’t vote for Republicans, so naturally, any election in which they don’t participate will be a good one for the GOP. Far from being a gaffe, this was a simple statement of fact.

But it’s the kind of truth that Republicans aren’t supposed to tell, because it leads to the uncomfortable question about why minorities and younger people don’t vote Republican. And it makes it seem as if Republicans don’t really want minorities or younger people to vote.

So, naturally, Hickey has been taking some broadsides from his fellow Republicans.

“Recent comments from Assemblyman Hickey are divisive, insensitive and run counter to the basic duties and honor of public service,” U.S. Sen. Dean Heller said in a news release. “Assemblyman Hickey should know that it is a privilege to represent Nevada’s many cultures and ethnicities. And furthermore, it is his responsibility, as it is all elected officials, to welcome any Nevadan into the political process, regardless of political affiliation, background or any other characteristic.”

Really? How about a Nevadan who supports ObamaCare, gun control and a business tax? How welcome would that guy be in the Nevada GOP, senator?

“I am deeply disappointed in Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey’s recent comments relating to minorities and voting,” wrote Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas. “I strive to build relationships with every voter, regardless of any specific characteristics. As Republicans, we need to be welcoming these voters, not disenfranchising them.”

But Hickey didn’t say minorities or younger people shouldn’t be allowed to vote. He just said they wouldn’t. And Fiore — who went on to call on Hickey to step down — had a recent falling out with her leader over an appointment to an interim legislative committee.

“I disagree with the minority leader’s statements,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval. “We must earn the trust and confidence of all Nevadans and seek their support on Election Day. Pat’s comments do not reflect my views and he should reconsider them.”

Apparently, Hickey did reconsider, and he agreed to an interview on “Ralston Reports,” where he said the following: everybody makes gaffes; Reid makes gaffes; political scientists — not Hickey! — are the ones who say young people and minorities don’t vote in off-year elections; it was the Democrats’ fault for seizing on his words; and he can’t possibly be anti-minority because “I’m a white guy, I’ve got a yellow wife, and kids with olive-colored skin.”

OK, then. Maybe not so much with the explaining.

Hickey did try in the interview — and in a statement sent out Wednesday — to clarify his remarks, saying, “My comments yesterday certainly did not mean to imply that the only way our party can win an election is if younger and Latino voters are discouraged from participating.” On Thursday, via Twitter, Hickey apologized, saying he misspoke. But now he’s just backing away from the truth: If people who tend to vote for Democrats don’t turn out, Republicans can more easily win elections. Hickey and many other members of his party understand that. They’re just not supposed to say it out loud.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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