Planning is under way to compete with the Democratic political machine. Senior Nevada Republicans say their goal is to improve the sophistication and effectiveness of the state GOP’s ground operations, with a new focus on door-knocking over phone calls, better penetration in GOP-leaning communities and enhanced micro-targeting.
The key, argue some Nevada Republicans, is Sandoval’s interest in accomplishing this and the leadership that he has exhibited in just a few months in office. The fact the GOP was purged of its scandal-tainted members — Ensign and former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons — helps as well. Gibbons ignored the state GOP, and it atrophied under his watch.
National and state Republicans had been hoping Heller would be their Senate candidate. He is close with Sandoval — a popular Latino conservative who has a good relationship with tea party activists and has prioritized helping his party succeed politically. Sandoval was the top vote-getter on the 2010 ballot, even carrying Democratic-leaning Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
“Sandoval changes the game completely,” said strategist Mike Slanker, a top political adviser to both the governor and Heller. “He understands that he has to be a player in this and provides a new brand of leadership.”