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The GOP’s Ugly Choice in the Guv Primary

What’s a good Nevada Republican to do with the mess that is the GOP gubernatorial primary?

The roster, for the record: incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons, former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon, and former state assemblyman-turned-attorney general-turned-gaming commissioner-turned-federal judge-turned private citizen Brian Sandoval.

Of course, the first person to blame for this mess is Gov. Gibbons. Had he not bungled his administration from the get-go, odds are Montandon wouldn’t have challenged him. But political sharks smelled his self-inflicted blood in the water and the race was on.

Unfortunately for Montandon, an even bigger shark, Sandoval – with lots of “establishment” shark buddies swimming around with him – smelled the same political opportunity and made an even bigger splash when he threw his flipper-floppers in the pool.

Unfortunately for both Sandoval and Montandon, reports of the Gibbons administration’s demise were premature, if not exaggerated. Thanks to the ongoing Great Recession, Gibbons, armed with a new but experienced staff, was able to turn a special legislative session dealing with the ongoing budget crisis this year into a successful campaign re-election kick-off event.

So now Gibbons is at least given a shot at winning the GOP nomination even though Sandoval leads in the polls and even though almost no one believes he could go on and win in the general election – even against Rory Reid. And part of the reason Gibbons is given such a shot is the fact that Sandoval is perceived to be, at best, a conservative of campaign convenience.

No such philosophical doubt exists about Montandon; however, almost no one believes he can win the primary even though they do believe, absent Gibbons’ baggage, he could beat Rory in November. The conservative who could win if only he could win.

And this whole bloody mess can pretty much be distilled down to the one, big conservative issue: tax hikes.

What Nevada’s Republican primary voters have to choose from is Sandoval, who says from one side of his mouth that he won’t raise taxes while saying from the other that he doesn’t want his hands tied from doing so – against Gibbons, who said he wouldn’t raise taxes only to admit to raising taxes when he isn’t denying he raised taxes while simultaneously claiming to have been faithful to his pledge not to raise taxes because of non-existent loopholes in his tax pledge that only he can find – against Montandon, who is considered both a solid conservative as well as trustworthy but for whom many voters believe their vote would ultimately be a vote for the moderate Sandoval by taking a conservative vote away from Gibbons.

What a decision. Thank goodness there aren’t any problems like this in that GOP U.S. Senate primary!