Sen. Dean Heller and other Republicans up for election in Nevada have moved outside the state GOP to form Team Nevada to help voter turnout.
Team Nevada had intended to align itself with the state GOP, a strategy that was scuttled in May after Paul supporters won control of the state GOP and garnered attention for attacking the RNC and suggesting they might not focus on turning out voters for Romney. In fact, the organization is working closely with Northern Nevada’s Washoe County GOP, considered effective and professionally run.
“The media narrative focuses on drama,” Amodei said in a statement provided to Roll Call. “But I’m focused on getting Republicans, independents and like-minded Democrats to the polls to elect fiscally-responsible individuals whose policies make sense and I’ll work with anybody at the county, state and national party level to accomplish that.”
Team Nevada was quietly launched months ago, before the rift with Paul supporters at the Nevada Republican Party caught the attention of the RNC and the Romney campaign.
Major Republican players in Nevada had previously concluded that the state GOP was too weak to adequately fund, build and lead a voter turnout program that could match the state Democratic Party machine, particularly in an election with competitive House, Senate and presidential races that are expected to attract plenty of outside money and boots on the ground. Managing get-out-the-vote activities is a state party’s main function in an election year.
A Republican insider familiar with the planning behind Team Nevada said it became increasingly clear to Republicans who were gearing up to run for election this year that they “wouldn’t have a viable state party to rely on.” That’s when they began to examine how to compensate, both in terms of assembling an operational ground game and offering a path for Republican donors who wanted to help but did not have confidence in the state GOP.
The GOP insider said Nevada Republicans have periodically had to work around a lackluster state party and were prepared by experience to deal with the eventuality. This individual said Nevada Republicans have been forced to think differently than their Democratic counterparts, who run everything through “the machine that Harry Reid built.”
The Nevada Democratic Party, which built a nationally respected voter turnout operation to help re-elect Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, in 2010, is expected to bring its expertise to bear this fall for President Barack Obama, Heller challenger Rep. Shelley Berkley and the eventual nominee in Heck’s newly drawn 3rd district. Under Reid’s leadership, the state Democratic Party remains well-organized and funded.
Nevada Democratic Party spokesman Zac Petkanas mocked Team Nevada and troubles experienced by the state GOP, saying the issue is one of the big reasons Democrats are expecting to win the marquee races on the Nov. 6 ballot — particularly if the contests are tough down the stretch.
“While Nevada Democrats have spent the last eight years building an organization with a track record of winning tough elections, Nevada Republicans are so disorganized that out-of-state operatives have been forced to parachute in at the last minute to cobble something together,” Petkanas said. “This is the difference between winning and losing campaigns when elections are this close.”
The Romney campaign and the RNC declined to comment for this story.