Pundit scopes out ‘complicated’ gubernatorial field

In a new analysis of 2010 gubernatorial elections, Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, says a Democrat is likely to win the Nevada Governor’s Mansion if Gov. Jim Gibbons is the Republican nominee. But if Gibbons drops out or loses the primary, it’s a toss-up.

Sabato has closely followed the upheavals in the political landscape of the Silver State, and it’s reflected in his comprehensive and accurate analysis, part of a rundown of the 16 statehouses currently held by Republicans that will be up for grabs next year. Of Gibbons, he says, "What a mess for the GOP," noting that the incumbent has already drawn two challengers in his own party.

On the Democratic side, Sabato observes the potential pitfalls of having two Reids on the ballot if Rory wins the Democratic gubernatorial primary at the same time as his dad is up for reelection to the Senate. This is something both Reids are concerned about; analysts tend to think it would be more of a problem for the father than the son.

To top it all off, there’s the scandal surrounding Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and his recent feud with Gibbons, which leads Sabato to note, "Nevada politics is complicated, isn’t it?"

Here’s the complete analysis from Sabato, featured on the Web site of the polling firm Rasmussen Reports:

NEVADA–Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV): What a mess for the GOP. First-term Governor Jim Gibbons, a former congressman elected in 2006, has been mired in scandal from the day he took over. Gibbons has been plagued by charges of sexual harassment, followed by a messy divorce in which the first lady would not vacate the Governor’s Mansion, plus various other controversies and improprieties. Not surprisingly, he has rock-bottom popularity, and is very probably a one-termer. Already, two Republicans have decided to challenge Gibbons in the party primary: former state Sen. Joe (Give ’em) Heck and North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon. The general election will not be especially competitive if Gibbons is the Republican nominee, but if he doesn’t run again or is defeated in the primary, this dynamic Wild West state of casinos, legalized prostitution, strong unions, Hispanic population growth, and in-migration from California could still feature a closely fought election. The Democrats are on the upswing here, as evidenced by Barack Obama’s comfortable 55% triumph in John McCain’s backyard in 2008, and that gives the party hope that they can win a gubernatorial election for the first time since 1996. The most prominent candidate appears to be Rory Reid, Clark County commissioner and son of U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid–who will also be on the ballot in 2010. The dynastic factor will be one to watch: Will Nevadans react well or poorly to the idea of voting for two Reids at once? No doubt, other Democrats will be competing in the primary, too. As for the GOP, conditions have become even more unsettled as Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) has been indicted for actions he took while serving as state Treasurer. The resolution of these charges will determine whether Krolicki could be a possible successor to Gibbons or a challenger for Harry Reid in 2010. Meanwhile, Gibbons and Krolicki are opening feuding with one another, sniping about petty matters of all kinds–just what the GOP didn’t need. Nevada politics is complicated, isn’t it? If Gibbons is the GOP nominee, LEANS DEMOCRATIC. Otherwise, a TOSS-UP.

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