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The Nevada GOP Dream Team

Republicans in Nevada are beaten, despondent and pretty much worthless as an opposition party – especially in the Legislature. Democrats gleefully cheer the party’s fallen fortunes and write obituaries in letters-to-the-editor almost every day. The GOP, they declare, is as dead as Yucca Mountain.

But just as Yucca Mountain is still very much alive – unless or until Congress puts a stake through its heart – the GOP is still drawing breaths and quietly, almost without notice, laying the foundation for a comeback in 2010. Sure, it’ll be a longshot….but if just a few pieces fall into place, champagne-toasting Democrats today could well be crying in their beer a year and a half from now.

It all starts with Dean Heller running for U.S. senator against Harry Reid.

While virtually unthinkable as a possibility as recently as last January, momentum and enthusiasm continue to build for a Heller run – and the northern Nevada congressman certainly isn’t giving any Shermanesque “hell no” responses when asked about it these days.

Two factors are working in the GOP’s favor.

First, the longer Obama is in office, the less godlike he seems to the average voter. The “Obama Factor” won’t be on the ballot next year – and if things continue the way they are, there could actually be a strong shift away from the now-popular president and his filibuster-proof ruling party. By continuing to overreach, Democrats could persuade large numbers of independent voters that divided government might not be such a bad idea. That’ll work against Democratic congress-critters on the ballot in 2010.

Secondly, nobody likes Harry Reid. Not even Democrats. His negatives are still high and his very nature makes it impossible for him to change into a warm and fuzzy “Mr. Rogers.”

Compare that to the young, vibrant, GQ-looking Dean Heller – who, by the way, voted against the bailouts and the stimulus packages engineered by Reid. And when “O-flation” kicks in next year, guess who would have a major campaign advantage then?

While many of the “powers that be” would like us to believe that knocking off Harry Reid is impossible, most of them would concede that “impossible” becomes “possible,” if not “likely,” if Heller is the GOP’s candidate.

And even just the talk of a possible Heller candidacy is having a positive effect on the rest of the party. People are now starting to ask, “If Heller runs for the Senate, what other quality candidates might be emboldened to consider other races?” Like…..for governor.

We all know that in the next week to ten days the Legislature is going to pass the Mother of All Tax Hikes….which Gov. Gibbons will veto. The Legislature will then override his veto. At that point, the governor’s polling numbers will skyrocket – maybe even hitting 27 percent again!

But even if his numbers rose to well over 80 percent, they won’t stay there and it won’t be enough to carry him into a second term. Everybody but the governor himself and a handful of Kool-Aid drinking associates and paid consultants know it. And the time will come when certain “powers that be” will walk over to the Governor’s Mansion (when Dawn’s not home) and deliver the bad news to the guy: “Get out.”

And he will.

The problem is, neither of the two announced GOP primary opponents are exactly setting Republican activists on fire these days. Mike Montandon and Joe Heck are solid candidates who are running pretty much on a platform that they’re not Jim Gibbons. They’re promising, Dukakis-like, to bring back a level of competence in the governor’s office. Important sure, but…..yawn.

All of which has Republican operatives in Nevada and in Washington, DC, talking about an alternative who just might consider running for governor if Dean Heller jumps into the race against Harry Reid. And the man the “powers that be” are talking about with great and growing enthusiasm these days is….

Federal district judge Brian Sandoval.

Sandoval is a former state legislator, former state attorney aeneral and former Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. He’s a native Nevadan, politically connected up the wazoo, relatively young (44), Hispanic, exceptionally intelligent, married with three children and, if I’m not mistaken, loves baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and puppies.

I think he loved Chevrolet, too….but that was before General Motors became Government Motors.

I mean, what’s not to like?

So follow the line here. Heller runs for Senate. Gibbons is persuaded to run for the hills. Sandoval runs for governor. Joe Heck reverses course at Heller’s request and runs against Rep. Dina Titus. Mike Montandon, who has a track record of winning in a hugely Democratic district, decides to run against Rep. Shelley Berkley.

And you know what? If just a few things break the GOP’s way in 2010 leading up the election…..all four could win. And what do you think having those four at the top of the ticket would do for all the other down-ballot races for constitutional and legislative offices?

Heck, maybe they’ll even talk Bill Raggio into running for Attorney General!

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one (hey, where have I heard that before?). Think big and big things can happen. Think small and small is all you’ll ever get.

Republicans are pretty pathetic right now. But at least some of them are thinking big.