Gov. Sunny on Republicans in Congress: Not like me

The estimable Jonathan Martin of the New York Times has penned a piece about GOP elders/governors distancing themselves from the DC wing of the party involved in the current stalemate/dysfunction.

What is striking about the story is a highly unusual quote from Gov. Brian Sandoval. The relevant section: “The constant focus on Congressional and White House bickering especially annoys Republican governors who feel that the party can take back the White House in 2016 if they nominate one of their own and run not only against the Democrats, but also against Washington dysfunction, much as George W. Bush did in 2000. “’There’s a clear contrast there,’ Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada said of the difference between his fellow chief executives and Republicans in Washington. ‘People are craving leadership and craving problem-solvers.’”

A couple of  points:

1. This is clearly how Sandoval has seen himself since he became governor: The adult in the room, the pragmatist, not the fire-breathing absolutist who sprinted to the right of then-Gov. Jim Gibbons in that 2010 primary

2. This could be seen as an oblique criticism of Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei and Sen Dean Heller, to whom he has tethered himself and whose political operation has merged with his. The vulturous (yes, I made up that word) state Democrats immediately picked up on that and sent out a release headlined, “SLANKER- CALL YOUR OFFICE: NYT reports Sandoval criticizes Heller & Heck on Republican shutdown.”

That’s a reference to Mike Slanker, who ran Heller’s 2012 race and will helm Sandoval’s re-election bid. And then: “While we agree with Brian Sandoval that Dean Heller and Joe Heck have not shown leadership during their shutdown of the government, we'd argue that dumping mental health patients to other states isn't exactly ‘leadership,’ either. Nonetheless, this is a slap in the face to Heller and Heck.”

Yes, the usual frothing. But Sandoval opened the door.

Why do I think the phone will ring in Heller’s office today – and he will answer the phone! – and the senator will hear the governor say, “Dean, I wan't talking about you. What I meant….”