Jon Ralston made me laugh out loud this week with his email about the opening of the joint Democratic campaign office in Southern Nevada.
He wrote: "I am sure Hillary and Bernie supporters will join hands and sing 'We are the World.'"
They might not exactly be having a Kumbaya moment, but Bernie Sanders HAS endorsed Hillary Clinton, and vowed to campaign for her and against Donald Trump.
How much will Bernie be part of the campaign in the next few months?
And how many of his supporters will come over to what they see as the dark side – especially here in Nevada, where supporters of both sides clashed at the state convention?
On Bernie Sanders endorsing Hillary Clinton:
Ralston: I think most Sanders supporters, even the ones I would categorize as more delusional then dedicated, do not want Donald Trump to be president. There will be a portion of those and I think it is a very small portion, who will either sit it out or not help Clinton, but I think most will go with Clinton.
Sebelius: I think there are people who have still not accepted what Bernie Sanders said. I think it is important to consider they got onto the Bernie Sanders campaign not neccesarily because they love Bernie Sanders but because they loved his ideas. And now that Bernie Sanders as packed it in and endorsed Hillary Clinton, they are still in favor of his ideas.
During his endorsement speech, he had to paper over a huge divide between the two candidates either completely ignoring or trying to say, ‘Well, Hillary believes essentially what I believe.’ She really doesn’t! Those supporters of Bernie Sanders realize it and they are not going to be mollified by his endorsement.
How important is in Nevada for Sanders and Clinton to be seen as being joined at the hip?
Sebelius: This has been a swing state for a long time and I think it veers much more to Hillary Clinton than it does to Donald Trump. One of the reasons for that, of course, is the Hispanic population. There was a poll by Latino Decisions that showed not only is Hillary Clinton leading in the Latino community by a staggering margin but that generic ballot Democrats are leading Republicans by a staggering margin and that Hispanic enthusiasm has increased as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on DAPA.
And it’s only getting greater as we get closer to Election Day. Those numbers are not good, especially in Nevada for the Republicans and for Donald Trump.
Ralston: A couple of wild cards to remember in Nevada is that about quarter of the voters were not registered with either party and how independents and minor parties break – will they vote for Gary Johnson or the other wild card ‘None of the Above,’ which doesn’t exist in any other state, and who does that siphon votes away from. I think that Trump is maybe looking at that or smart Republicans are looking at those factors as maybe helping.
If those Latino Decisions numbers are mirrored here, if the results from 2008 and 2012, within the Hispanic community are mirrored again and remember it was 15 percent and then 18 percent in 2008 and 2012 – some activist think they can get it up above 20 percent as a share of the electorate this time – it is game over for Trump.
On whether Nevada is really a swing state:
Ralston: [Democrats] see it that way that it is more trending blue than purple, as the swing states are called sometimes… I think it is a lean blue state… but the fact is, Steve is right. The Republicans do think they have a chance to win Nevada and so there will be a lot of money that will be spent here. Don’t forget that there is a very critical U.S. Senate race that has already caused a tremendous amount of spending.
That is a pivotal Senate seat. It may be the only seat that the Republicans will be able to have a chance to take this time. So all of that money is going to be spent here and it creates a lot of attention on Nevada. And there will still be a sign that if Joe Heck can run a strong campaign and separate himself from Trump a little bit, which he has not done very well so far, that he can win. It will be seen as a swing state to the Republicans for the foreseeable future.
On whether Catherine Cortez Masto will be helped by the surge in Latinos registering to vote:
Ralston: Well theoretically. She would be the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate, which is something that she and her campaign and Democrats seem to mention a lot. I think it will help her and I think it will help Hispanic turnout. But I think the Hispanic turnout is going to be big any how because of these registration efforts and because of Donald Trump.
I think she is a favorite, a very slight favorite. I think Heck is a better candidate but because of the dynamics of the election this time that she’s a slight favorite. I think Heck is a first class candidate. That’s a toss-up race.
Can money buy Joe Heck enough distance from Trump to give him an edge?
Sebelius: (Laughs) Well that is really more up to the candidate than the outside money that’s coming in, most of which he technically or legally can’t control or direct how that is spent
The Republicans didn’t draw a bad card here. I mean Joe Heck is one of their best most formidable candidates, a very disciplined campaigner. I don’t think there is an interview done about Joe Heck where his entire resume isn’t somehow subtly worked into the conversation. That is one of the reasons I give a slight edge to Joe Heck here.
On new ballot measures:
Ralston: There are the two energy ones… One is a very, very broad one that has to pass twice and it would deregulate the entire electricity industry here and the other is to address the so-called net-metering rooftop solar problem in Nevada. Both are heavily supported by the solar industry, but the deregulation one has even broader support. That is the one that NV Energy is much more concerned about. NV Energy is going to spend a lot of money on both of those. I think they may wait because one of them has to pass twice. That may be a mistake, if they decide to do that.
One is a huge, huge policy issue whether to deregulate the electricity market and it’s the kind of thing that is going to be problematic for voters to try to grasp. It’s easy to do a sound bite that says ‘Everyone hates the power company. Let’s deregulate it and maybe get more choices.’ That’s going to be appealing. It may have resonance and it may make sense. On the other hand, people also want reliability. They want their lights to go on when they go into their house. Their air conditioning – especially this time of year – to be working. That’s an interesting debate.
The rooftop solar one I think is going to be very difficult with all the publicity it’s gotten for NV Energy to beat.
Jon Ralston, columnist, Reno Gazette-Journal and contributing editor, Politico; Steve Sebelius, columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of Politics Now on KLAS-TV Channel 8