MY COLUMN: What the primary results really mean

The conventional wisdom has begun to settle, as if the landscape is being re-examined after a major seismic event.

Yes, it was The Predictable Primary, with almost no upsets. Yes, it was The Snooze Primary, with near-record low turnout. Yes, it was The Sandoval Primary, with gubernatorial dominance.

But beyond the tiresome victory news releases – ON TO NOVEMBER! – and the “lessons learned” instapunditry about an electorate that was one third the size of what we will see in November, some electoral detritus is worth highlighting:

The Democrats did nothing in the primary: The Reid Machine has been in the shop. Some thought of bringing it out for a test run in the GOP lieutenant governor’s primary but thought better of it after polling showed Sue Lowden, run over by the same machine four years ago, was irretrievably lost. But it is about to get revved up for the general on two tracks: Electing Assemblywoman Lucy Flores as lieutenant governor because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks Brian Sandoval is doing a bang-up job as governor and should stay put, and re-electing Justin Jones to the state Senate to assure Mo Denis, or one of his ambitious Lancelots, is the majority leader. Watch the registration figures and the sniping from Democratic sharpshooters – the fundraising orchestrated from DC will largely be unseen, thanks to obscene lack-of-disclosure laws.

Team Hutchoval produces a personal injury for Sue Lowden: The first investment by the Brian Sandoval/Mark Hutchison merger proved fruitful;. Yes, it took seven figures, but the strategy, if not the candidate, was flawless: Build up an early lead by using the financial advantage to boost Hutchison’s name recognition, then define Lowden before she could define herself to cushion against the possibility she would write a seven-figure check and close the gap. She never did put in enough money, so she relied on social media and ads made at a public access television studio. I think even Team Hutchoval was worried that she didn’t do more. Hutchsion, who was respected and liked by lawmakers of both parties in Carson City, occasionally came off as arrogant and disdainful during the campaign – “Who are you, Sue Lowden, to be in this race when the governor wanted ME?” But his work ethic is unquestioned, and thanks to his patron in the mansion, he will be able to replenish his coffers.  But even though some in The Insider Crew might believe Flores is a prohibitive underdog, if she can remain disciplined and raise enough money (hello, Harry!), this could be a real race. Remember, she has been in politics longer than Hutchison, has battled worse problems than a political race and will tap into the Hispanic vote. Both sides have much ammunition; either could overplay its hand. Hutchison is the favorite, but The Reid Machine changes the dynamic.

Sandoval’s coattails may be shorter in the general – or not: The monster that is the Sandoval juggernaut, partly of his own making and partly created by the Democratic “leadership” and its inability or refusal to challenge him on any significant issue, was dominant in this election. Folks facing primaries, such as Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, put the governor’s name on their signs. He has a 90 percent approval rating in his own party. If Democrats who let a mental health scandal and health exchange disaster pass without laying a glove on him give him a pass for the next five months, Sandoval could have an impact in the general, too. And the infrastructure erected by Team Hutchoval, while no match yet for The Reid Machine, also could be a factor. But it will not be enough – will it? – for Hutchison to run an “I’m the governor’s guy” campaign during the next five months.

Conservatives didn’t lose; “conservatives” lost: In every major race where the contest was portrayed as the “real conservative” vs. a moderate, the “real conservative” lost. This is not just because most had more money or the governor’s support, although that undoubtedly helped a lot. But maybe voters didn’t simply buy the “I signed a tax pledge so I’m a conservative” pitch. Maybe some of these candidates didn’t work as hard, were exposed as phonies or had inept campaigns. Maybe some Republicans actually voted for representatives who wanted to accomplish something, not just tear down everything, as their supporters in the state GOP/Citizen Outhouse prefer. Maybe there is no call for a conservative revolution, after all.

(Yes, Jim Wheeler survived his Assembly primary in Redneckville, but he was the incumbent and maybe slavery is popular there. He will, again, be a nonfactor in the capital; Robin Reedy could have caused trouble for the Democrats by being a leader. This may be good for the prospects of any real deals on major issues next session.)  

“None of These candidates” could be an effective Democratic nominee: I hear the mewling from the faithful. But imagine if the Democrats had nominated someone such as State Sen. Tick Segerblom. Or even, perhaps, Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak. The economy is getting better, Sandoval is immensely well liked and his numbers are stratospheric.  So instead of a super-landslide, Sandoval would win in a mere landslide, having hurt the Democratic candidate and, perhaps, the brand, too. If you are going to kill the king, you spare no bullets; but if you want to let the king live for another day – or four more years – you holster your weaponry. The danger, as I have said, is that Sandoval now gets to pad his numbers, and if Hutchison wins, maybe some whispering in his ear from DC might get him to change his mind about becoming a member of the Club of 100.

The Roberson ticket emerges unscathed but broke: The Democrats are bragging about Team Roberson spending almost all of its money to win three primaries in the critical races that will determine control of the state Senate. This is not insignificant, but it also is not determinative. State Sen. Justin Jones, in what may be the most important race in the state this year, has $400,000 while Becky Harris had to unload all she had to win her primary, as did Patricia Farley. Minority Leader Michael Roberson went nuclear to ensure he defeated Carl Bunce, and he did, easily. I don’t argue that especially in a low-turnout race that you should do whatever it takes to ensure victory, just as Hutchison did. But now Team Roberson, with a little help from Sandoval, will have to replenish war chests to remain competitive. The GOP needs to win all three to gain control. It’s a toss-up and where all of the action will be this cycle.

Some quick thoughts: The LDS vote still matters in low-turnout primaries – Hutchison, Cresent Hardy in CD4 and Larry Burns in the sheriff’s race surely benefited.

What about Bob? Bob Goodman isn’t around much, but the Democrats might have a problem if their gubernatorial nominee starts making pronouncements. They want Lucy Flores seen as the top of the ticket but, technically, she ain't.

Don’t forget that the public has yet to hear much about the two most significant policy items on the ballot this year – the move to take mining taxation out of the Constitution and The Education Initiative, a k a the margin tax. Will mining run a campaign against the former, and can the teachers union and progressives find a way to beat the money behind the latter?

Finally, the next five months are about whether the Democrats and Prince Harry’s machine, aided by substantial registration advantages and an embarrassingly inept GOP operation, can overcome adverse atmospherics and King Brian’s coattails, as the Republicans try to take control of the state Senate and maintain a hold on the lieutenant governor’s office, both of which could change the course of Nevada history.