NV and UT Republicans Throw Weight Behind...Democrats

Democrats and Republicans in this feisty election season are more likely to reach across the aisle to take a political punch than to offer a hug or a handshake. But even with partisan rhetoric spouting from stumps nationwide, Democrats in states that saw Tea Party candidates win the GOP nomination are touting endorsements from some high-profile state Republicans.

Reid's campaign Thursday announced 200 GOPers had joined its "Republicans for Harry Reid" group. Among them are big-time players in the state's key industries, who have benefited from a Nevadan as Senate majority leader, as well as prominent figures in Silver State politics such as Sig Rogich, a former George H.W. Bush adviser, former chair of the Nevada Taxpayers' Association Fred Gibson, and politically active former first lady Dema Guinn, widow of former Gov. Kenny Guin.

"After losing to me in a primary, during which she ran a very negative campaign and distorted my record, referred to me as a liar and a RINO, I never heard one word from her, or a concession, or an offer of support. Instead she lent aid and comfort in an effort to recall me as state senator," Nevada state Senate minority leader Bill Raggio said of Sharron Angle in a statement endorsing Reid.

"Those are personal issues which I was willing to put behind me," he continued. Raggio went on to indicate he was not thrilled to endorse Reid, but he could not overlook either Angle's "totally ineffective" turn as assemblywoman or her "unwillingness to work with others" and "extreme positions."

"There's a lot of bad blood there," says Dave Damore, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "She's never been the sort of get-along, go-along politician. The other thing is, for a lot of folks here, the question is, are we going to be better off losing the Senate majority leader? The sense is, we may not like some of these things, but it's going to do a lot more for Nevada than a Senate delegation of [Sen. John] Ensign and Angle."

And anti-establishment atmosphere, which helped boost Tea Party candidates to the top in primaries in Utah, Delaware, and Alaska, is unattractive to some Nevadans deeply rooted in state politics and industry.

"They're all Republicans, but sort of establishment types," Damore says of "Republicans for Reid," which includes several high-profile businessmen in Nevada's gaming industry. "In many ways, her campaign is as much against Harry Reid and the perception of the Obama liberal agenda as it is versus the sort of establishment Republican, who has more or less, in her view, strayed from the party's principles."

In Utah, where Tea Party candidate Mike Lee took down incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett in a surprise upset, U.S. Senate candidate and Democrat Sam Granato released a list of 20 high-profile Republicans endorsing him. The list includes current and former mayors, county commissioners, and legislators. "I'm proud to have the support of so many great leaders from both sides of the aisle," he said in a news release Tuesday. They "understand that my opponent Mike Lee's extremist approach would be disastrous for all Utahns, regardless of our political party."

Republican state senator Steve Mascar0, who endorsed Granato, agrees. "I'm hoping Granato does get an opportunity to get elected, because I think it will send a message not only to some of the extremists in both parties that there is a mainstream element in our community."

Mascaro explains, "The far right does not represent the majority of the people, but the way our election process is set up, the far right are the ones that end up being delegates and candidates, so the mainstream portion of Utah doesn't always get an opportunity."

Damore predicts high-profile Republican endorsements are not likely to tip the scales to favor the Democratic recipient. "You may sway a handful of undecided Republicans, who are worried about this candidate," he says. "It's a lot like the '04 presidential election. Bush knew people didn't like him, but were people ready to go with the alternative?"