(Chuck Muth) – If Las Vega Mayor Oscar Goodman is looking for a path to the governor’s mansion, his best option may be to “go rogue” and run as an independent rather than compete against the Reid Dynasty in a Democrat primary race.
A new Nevada gubernatorial poll conducted on November 20-21, 2009, for the Nevada News Bureau shows Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval leading the field in a hypothetical three-way general election contest, with Goodman in second place as an independent candidate, and Democrat Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid bringing up the rear.
Thirty-five percent of respondents in the automated phone survey of likely voters statewide picked Sandoval, 28 percent chose Goodman and 21 percent selected Reid. Another 16 percent say they prefer someone else. The margin of error is estimated at plus/minus 5 percentage points.
The results were culled from 19,801 random calls to registered voters who have voted in at least two of the last three general elections. The list was comprised of 45 percent registered Democrats, 40 percent registered Republicans and 15 percent independents or third-party voters.
Of the 3,080 respondents – a 15.5 percent participation rate – 42 percent were Democrats, 48 percent were Republicans and 10 percent were independents or third-party voters – an indication that the Democrats’ current voter registration advantage in Nevada could be offset somewhat by higher Republican turnout next November.
“It would be way to presumptuous for me to definitively say the party participation figures show stronger GOP interest and intensity,” said Jerry Dorchuck, chairman of PMI. “However, these figures are, in fact, consistent with election results in New Jersey and Virginia a couple weeks ago in which the youth and minority vote that came out for Obama in 2008 didn’t participate at the same level without Obama on the ballot.”
Of those voting for Reid, 78 percent were Democrats. Of those voting for Sandoval, 76 percent were Republicans. Of those voting for Goodman, 49 percent were Democrats and 36 percent were Republicans.
Clark County represented 57 percent of the votes cast, Washoe County accounted for 20 percent and all of the other rural counties combined represent the remaining 23 percent.
Not surprisingly, Sandoval – a Reno resident – is crushing his opposition in Washoe County and the rurals.
In Washoe County Sandoval picked up 47 percent of the vote, Reid pulled 29 percent and Goodman only 8 percent, with 16 percent choosing “Someone Else.” In the combined rural counties Sandoval received 47 percent of the vote, Reid 12 percent, Goodman 12 percent and “Someone Else” 29 percent.
The results in Clark County – the state’s primary population center and Goodman’s stronghold – were starkly different. Goodman received 41 percent of the vote, Sandoval 26 percent, Reid 21 percent and “Someone Else” 12 percent.
“That’s one heck of a strong base of support to start from,” said Dorchuck of Goodman’s number in southern Nevada. “Oscar’s hardly known at all in Reno and the rurals. Should he decide to actively campaign in those areas his numbers there would certainly go up. If he holds his southern Nevada base and cuts into Sandoval and Reid’s Reno/rural support, you’ve got an all-bets-are-off barn-burner of a general election race.”
Forty-seven percent of the “Someone Else” vote was cast by registered Republicans, which likely benefits Sandoval. The former federal judge faces a GOP primary with incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon. Should Sandoval prevail in June’s primary election, much of the Republican “Someone Else” vote will shift to Sandoval in the general election, though some would probably flow to Goodman.
Democrats who accounted for 41 percent of the “Someone Else” vote may opt to stay home or vote for another third-party candidate.
Now here’s where things get even MORE interesting….
In addition to surveying likely general election voters, PMI duplicated the survey with 10,342 randomly selected registered voters who have NOT voted in either of the last two general elections. Of those called, 1,672 participated in the survey, a 16 percent response rate.
Of the registered but unlikely voters, 34 percent cast their lot with Sandoval, 29 percent for Goodman, 19 percent for Reid and 18 percent for Someone Else.
“A significant amount of the unlikely vote for Sandoval could possibly be the Hispanic vote, which hasn’t turned out in exceptionally high numbers over the years,” said Dorchuck. “If Brian can motivate those folks to go to the polls in numbers no other candidate has in the past, turn out the lights the party’s over.
“However, Goodman may actually have more success in turning out unlikely voters,” Dorchuck continued. “Independent candidates with bigger-than-life personalities have been the most successful in getting people who normally don’t vote to show up on election day. It’s the disenfranchised voter’s opportunity to stick it in the eye of both major parties by voting for the renegade. I think Oscar has the kind of personality which could lift the couch potatoes off their seats and into the voting booth.”
The great unknown is if Goodman really wants to be governor or not.
If so, despite conventional wisdom, his chances in a three-way general election may well be better than in a head-to-head contest with Rory Reid in a Democrat primary. As former Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson found out in the 2006 gubernatorial primary against Dina Titus, the union-dominated Democrat primary tends to reward the candidate with the stronger ties to the party’s grassroots get-out-the-vote operation than the candidate with the better general election prospects.
And when push comes to shove, the Reids – Rory and his dad, Harry – will pull out all the stops to stop Oscar from getting the Democrat gubernatorial nomination in 2010. Fighting in a Democrat primary is a fight on Rory’s turf. Fighting in the general election is fighting on Goodman’s turf.
If ever there was a time and race for an independent candidate to pull off a major upset in Nevada politics, this could be it and Goodman could be da man. Martinis for everyone!
(Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach)