LOS ANGELES, CA – I attended a Nevada debate Watch party in Las Vegas between the two candidates, incumbent Democrat Steve Sisolak and Republican challenger Joe Lombardo which was filled with explosive moments due to an excellent moderator, Jon Ralston, asking tough questions of both candidates reeking of and delivering political clichés.
In many tense moments, you could tell Ralston was calling out the typical political talk coming from both candidates, trying to make sense of overly non committal answers and putting the candidates on the hot seat on their past records. It was sorely needed. Bravo, Jon.
Ralston called out the fact that Sisolak never met a tax he vetoed in the legislature. When asked to name one instance where he pushed back on a tax increase the incumbent governor had to go back to his days in lower office. When further pushed back on that, he offered a vague political answer of pushing back hypothetical bills that never made it on the legislative floor.
I find it difficult to comprehend that Governor Sisolak would be fighting quiet battles against tax increases. But this is the type of fictitious answer that reeks of elitist politician. And so were his weak responses to Nevada’s draconian shutdowns leading to the devastation of the state’s economy during the pandemic. All in all, he limped and flailed, throwing all his eggs in a perfectly rehearsed answer to the abortion question, acting like Nevada would be a sanctuary state for abortion like California.
Unfortunately, Joe Lombardo made it clear that abortion was not a legislative priority of his, though the supposed pro life Republican gave a confusing answer that sounded more pro choice than anything. While Sisolak’s position was more clear than Lombardo’s, Lombardo wins due to the fact that Nevadans have more pressing matters to prioritize: murder of babies, or fetuses, whatever nomenclature you decide to use, not being top of mind.
Lombardo was clearly trying to play what he considers the middle. Not only the abortion issue but in the way he answered the inevitable Trump question. While he was happy to wrap his arms around the former president and accept his endorsement to win the primary, his first instinct in the general election was clearly to distance and turn his back on the guy who just helped him.
Perhaps Lombardo is making the calculation that the solid Republican voters will hold their nose and vote for him as he walks back his positions, but he’s making a long term mistake in chipping away at his base to pander to other voters. There were better ways to answer the question without showing contempt and disdain for Trump. A masterful politician will deflect the gotcha question and pivot to current president Joe Biden but his failure to do so shows he still has plenty to learn, or it could be emotional. Neither are good.
In other observations, both candidates seemed uncomfortable as the tough questions were asked evidenced by their tense body language. Lombardo was clearly trying to temper his more bombastic nature and came off rather sedated but did come to life in some moments later in the debate. Sisolak is naturally awkward but stumbled extra hard over his words especially when his record was tested. Truth hurts?
But one only needs to observe the left leaning Ralston to see where Nevada’s political winds are blowing. There was genuine frustration when he asked questions to the Democratic incumbent, echoing major policy concerns he and many people in the center and left have issues with: high inflation, shutdowns, and the overreach of the far left. Even Lombardo had to smile at some points as he knew the moderator was capturing the pulse of the average Nevadan and taking the incumbent to task, giving a clear edge to the challenger.
To that end, the party out of power and its challenger won the debate. But those who are truly observing will question if Lombardo will do the same as Sisolak once he is in power. Which led to the most powerful point in the debate in my humble opinion. Ralston asked Lombardo to make a strong promise not to raise taxes or resign, and Lombardo was not willing to do so, despite running specifically on that platform. I saw two politicians through and through but the voters will likely fire the current officeholder for what is by comparison, a better choice in a binary matchup.