Party of Adelson

Sheldon Adelson has gone from a good donor to owner of the Republican Party in Nevada.

The party rarely holds events outside The Venetian, and now it apparently cannot raise much money without the help of the world’s sixth-richest man.

The real draw at today’s reception featuring Vice President Dick Cheney isn’t the vice president, but a chance to peek inside the home of a man worth $26.5 billion. For a mere $250, you can probably even get a glimpse of Adelson himself. I wonder if the state GOP would make more money offering a photo with Sheldon instead of one with the veep.

There could easily be more Democrats protesting outside the gates of Tournament Hills today than there are Republicans forking over their cash to meet a politician most wish was long gone. The only solace for a good Republican writing a check there this afternoon is that the money is supposed to go to the state party. And the GOP hopes Victory 2008 isn’t an oxymoron. In theory, that fund could trickle down to legislative races and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Thankfully for the party, Cheney isn’t the real headliner.

The state and local Republican parties have moved squarely away from the Bush administration. Pictures of George Bush and Cheney are no longer hanging near the entrance of the state GOP office, for example. The closest the Clark County GOP gets to recognizing the administration on its Web site is a photo of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with the caption “Republican White House.”

It’s understandable that the party has parted ways. So have its voters. Since the start of the year, 1,622 Republicans in Clark County have taken steps to officially leave the party. That means they actually filled out the paperwork and re-registered — a full 759 of them as Democrats, of all things. The rest became nonpartisan. Even well-known Republicans have left the party in disgust. Conservative blogger Chuck Muth is now a nonpartisan.

Democrats are outdrawing Republicans for the hearts of nonpartisans who have decided to register with a political party. Clark County Election Department records from Jan. 1 through Monday show 1,083 nonpartisans have re-registered as Democrats. Democrats in August also overtook the GOP in statewide voter registration.

This could actually be good news for the Republican Party if it really ran a campaign of change. And it’s not as if the state party doesn’t have that very opportunity in the Jan. 19 Republican presidential caucus. But unhappiness with the Bush administration isn’t exactly fomenting much rah-rah for the caucus.

Maybe because the caucus exists only in the minds of the few Republicans who frantically worked to move up Nevada’s GOP date to match the Democrats. The presidential candidates don’t even consider Nevada an early state. Its leading candidates are all about Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The state Republican Party Web site does not contain a single mention of the presidential caucus. Even the events calendar, which stretches all the way to Lincoln Day events next February, bypasses Jan. 19. (For what it’s worth, the Web site also made no mention of its fundraiser today with Cheney.)

By comparison, you can’t go anywhere near the state Democratic Party’s Web site without getting hit over the head with all things caucus. On the Democratic Party’s site, you’ll also see a swipe at Cheney, dubbed (I kid you not) “reDICKulous Republicans.”

Who’s writing their copy, MoveOn.org?

The Democrats have a massive caucus apparatus in place, securing hundreds of voting sites, holding mock caucus sessions and cold-calling voters to get involved.

By the end of the process, it’s likely that a majority of Democratic caucus-goers will have actually met a presidential candidate. They’re kind of hard to miss, particularly if you’re in the Culinary union.

If you’re looking for the Republicans, you’ll have to camp out at The Venetian.

Newt Gingrich is scheduled to be there tonight for a speech to the Nevada Policy Research Institute and plenty of “Run, Newt, run” chants. He’s been out at conservative think tanks, hawking his book and testing the waters for a bid.

On Thursday, Target shopper Rudy Giuliani will be at The Venetian for a campaign fundraiser.

Adelson is really the only connection Nevada Republicans have to national politics.

The Democrats have a written rule that presidential candidates should patronize only union properties. Thankfully, all bars, restaurants and snack bars at McCarran International Airport are covered. Republicans must now have a rule that all things presidential must traverse the Grand Canal, or at the very least the $6.4 million manse of the Sands capo.

Sands was already a major player during this year’s session of the Nevada Legislature, pulling Gov. Jim Gibbons’ strings on transportation and lobbying for green tax breaks.

Imagine just how much sway Adelson will have on efforts to raise the gaming tax when his crew bubbles up to Carson City in 2009.

Erin Neff’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at eneff@reviewjournal.com.

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