Nevada GOP opts for Big Mac over Prime CUT

About a month after the 2012 election, ex-state GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden hosted a meeting in Laughlin to talk about fixing the Ron Paul-dominated Clark County Republican Party.

The current state chairman, Michael McDonald, was there to express support and to assure people that the state party was moving forward, that he had mended fences with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, according to one attendee who remembers the confab very well.

The RNC, along with the Mitt Romney and Dean Heller campaigns, had been involved in an effort during the 2012 campaign to circumvent the party by using a third-party group.

McDonald told the assembled partisans, I’m reliably informed by someone who was there, that he knew two things:

“1. Even if he hadn't (mended fences with Priebus), the party didn't need the RNC to be successful and 2. The Tea Party people running (the county party) at the time needed to get over what happened. He also said that (Gov. Brian) Sandoval and Heller weren't needed to make the party successful, that it was obvious neither one cared about (the state party), but that it would be ‘helpful’ if they got in line. Finally, regarding Sheldon, McDonald said that the party was not going to position itself to be reliant on 'Strip money' and that he was never going to sit down with anyone on the Strip and ask for their money, that the party would do fine without it.”

That is, McDonald was trying to soothe all sides, to salve the wounds of the 2012 disaster while maintaining his base within the party – i.e. trying to please everyone.


Fast forward to this weekend as McDonald was re-elected in a landslide despite an eleventh-hour attempt by the dreaded Establishment to take him out.

This is both unsurprising and stunning. Unsurprising because of McDonald’s ability to persuade Tea Party backers of Sharron Angle he is with them while simultaneously telling Priebus he is the kind of guy who will play ball (I doubt Priebus ever believed it, though). And stunning because the man whom the inmates elevated and who knows nothing about winning Republican campaigns or raising GOP money has now rendered the party irrelevant once again.

Said one knowledgeable insider: “They’re (the party) is broke now and will be more broke. People trust the (Clark) county party and will give money. But (the state party) is pathetic. This is embarrassing. The governor and (his consultant Mike) Slanker and those guys tried. But they know you can’t trust what McDonald says. He’ll tell everybody what they want to hear.”

It is McDonald’s own duality that explains his ascent to what is now a meaningless throne – his reflexive obsequiousness contrasted with a thug’s mien, the public face that is Eddie Haskell-like and the private countenance that could have earned him a role as a Tony Soprano minion.

McDonald’s painfully solicitous manner has been evident since he was a Las Vegas city councilman, his attempts to make everyone feel as if he is for whatever they want at that moment. How else could a guy who shilled for the unions and others when he was on the Las Vegas Convention Authority board, helped shun Sheldon Adelson who was at war with the LVCVA and then became a lobbyist for the Culinary erase that past to become head of the Nevada Republican Party?

He did so by hanging around central committee meetings after his disgraceful exit from public life as an ethically challenged councilman and potential FBI target, looking for a way to come back and building alliances in one of the few venues where he could be resurrected. The union mouthpieces morphed into the consummate Republican, friend of tea partiers and the Establishment? You can’t make this stuff up.

(One side note: Part of McDonald’s campaign for re-election was the RNC considering bringing the national convention here. Trust me: He has NOTHING to do with that. Indeed, those who make those decisions consider him an impediment.)

But the con worked, McDonald got elected and now to a new term despite Adelson lobbyist Robert Uithoven’s late entrance into the contest. Uithoven’s task was difficult going in because of McDonald’s base. And when he started talking to central committee members “who think Sandoval is a Marxist,” as he told me, the die was cast.

The silliness of this to normal human beings – that a political party should be used to elect candidates and help the elected officials – is manifest. But GOP insiders, who for years have fretted about the party, are now relegated to finding yet another way to fund campaigns. The state GOP has little funding and Adelson, who gave $135,000 as an experiment to see if McDonald would squander it, is done.

Indeed, Adelson's lieutenant, Andy Abboud, attended the election at the South Point on Saturday, informing delegates about McDonald’s unionopholia and promising the Bank of Adelson is closed if he wins. Several witnesses told me that McDonald mouthed an expletive at Abboud from the stage, which shows his unique gift for political genius.

So beyond being a victory for the Democrats, who long ago made their party a handmaiden to the electeds (Prince Harry, especially) and for a media that will revel in the lunacy to come, what does this mean?

Some Democrats will feel as one insider put it about how this may be perceived: “It matters who the GOP chair is both symbolically and substantively. It sends signals to the rank and file and contributors about the direction and professionalism of the party. If Republicans have faith in the person at the top they are far more likely to be enthusiastic about down ballot candidates and to become energized about campaign season. Parties, with the right direction, can give campaigns the foundational support that can make the difference.”

The truth is, though, that beyond giving Democrats fodder to tag Sandoval and Heller with an embarrassing loss no one who matters really cares about, the only issue is whether donors can find other ways to be helpful. In the post-Citizens United world, there are plenty of vehicles that don’t involve McDonald.

This was an opportunity for the Republican Party to become potentially effective. Instead, the Republicans will continue to dine at McDonald’s, where the meals are cheap and may taste good for awhile but are ultimately unhealthy, instead of at CUT, where the courses are full and satisfying and where the real money is.