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John L. Smith On The Never-Ending 2018 Campaign

The last of those nasty television ads have been broadcast. Your postal carrier is scheduled for back surgery from lifting tons of political mailers over the last several weeks. 


The Get Out The Vote troops are working overtime, the Election Department is on high alert, and the pundits are poised with their predictions for the midterm that has been described as the most important in our lifetimes. 


Election Day is finally here. 


Of course, State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith is here with his thoughts about the end of the 2018 campaign season that felt like it might never end. 

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Nevada has been visited by President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama all because of the idea that our state is a swing state, especially in the race to control the Senate.

“What we really are is this great big arid political petri dish,” Smith said, “People from outside look at Nevada with its relatively small population - still just pushing 3 million - look at us as this place where they can drop their money, put in their political philosophies, test market all of their latest one-liners and talking points.”

He said because of that Nevada gets a steady stream of candidates and their big money backers to the state. Smith said the state has become a bit of a bellwether. The state’s changing demographics makes it more of a reflection of America.

“We're growing and changing as a state,” he said, “I think that you've got a lot of folks they basically want it. Want to test out their latest thing.”

As far as Republicans go, Smith says you have to be with President Trump or you’re really not relevant in Nevada.

“I haven't found one independent thought that isn't reflecting off of the Donald Trump playbook,” he said.

On the Democratic side, they’re testing new progressive policies

“You see more and more progressives in the party, real liberals in the Democratic Party standing up and getting elected or at least coming close,” he said, which is why people are watching the Texas Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz. It is amazing to many people that a proud progressive like O’Rourke could be doing so well in such a deep red state.  

While the country is watching the Texas race, in Nevada the biggest race is the one governor between Adam Laxalt and Steve Sisolak.

“I think Adam Laxalt handlers have done a really good job to insulate him from the media, insulate him from that what we would call in the press that follow-up question,” Smith said, “To present a guy who is a good family man, who's been candid enough to discuss some of the things in his past that he's had to overcome, which I think his career is translated as a character builder for him.”

Smith pointed out that in the past the two candidates for governor would have had a debate and would have answered tough questions from reporters. That is now how it works now.

“What they're doing is basically it's kind of chuck and duck,” he said, “They throw something and then duck the return fire. And that's kind of the prevailing wave in politics.”

Smith said that Laxalt’s politics are a lot more to the right of most mainstream Nevadans but he has worked to make himself seem more middle of the road.

“On the other side, Sisolak has run probably the smartest campaign,” he said of Laxalt’s opponent, “He's spent more time in the north where he had to patch and mend some fences.”

Smith said when Sisolak was a university regent he was tough on former University of Nevada, Reno President Joe Crowley and people in the area loved Crowley.

 “When I was up there visiting earlier in the summer, that was almost constant whenever Sisolak’s name was mentioned there was that element that he had to come out and show that he wasn't just for the South,” he said.

Smith said that while most voters are in the south to win a statewide race Northern Nevada is essential.

Another important race in Nevada is the one for U.S. Senate. Sen. Dean Heller has never lost a race and Congresswoman Jacky Rosen is a freshman with a slim political resume. But the race is neck and neck.

Smith says Jacky Rosen is likable and that helps.

“For people who are around her, who hear her speak, there's a sincerity level that emerges there,” he said, “She's known as a quick study.”

Heller's problem is that Heller's been schizophrenic, Smith said.

“The bottom line with Dean Heller is he's a very popular candidate who normally would not have backed Donald Trump,” he said.

However, Heller realized he would have lost in a primary to Danny Tarkanian if he didn’t pledge loyalty to the president.

“He's been very loyal frankly,” Smith said, “I think it's kind of embarrassing that any grown-up would be that loyal when you're running for office and you're supposed to bring an independent mind to your office”

For Smith, one of the most interesting races on the ballot is for Congressional District 4, between Steven Horsford and Cresent Hardy. Both of them have held the seat in the past, Hardy beat Horsford, then Ruben Kihuen beat Hardy, but Kihuen didn’t run for re-election.

“To me, this is one of the more interesting races because they represent very clear very different approaches to politics,” Smith said, “There are a lot of political philosophies are extremely different.”

Smith said Horsford can be equated with the blue-collar side of the Democratic Party while Hardy is a guy from the business class of the Republican Party.

In the race between Susie Lee the Democrat and Danny Tarkanian the Republican for Congress in District 3, Smith thinks this should be the year Tarkanian wins. He’s run several times but so far hasn’t won.

“He has far more experience in running for office not in winning, not in serving but in running for office than Susie Lee does,” he said, “He has the best friends with the biggest checkbooks.”

Smith says Tarkanian picked a good time to support a president. Tarkanian has been a loud supporter of the president from the beginning. In addition to that, Susie Lee has almost no political experience. With all that said, he’s not entirely sure that Tarkanian will beat Lee. 


Polls close Tuesday at 7 p.m. 





John L. Smith, contributor

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