In a state that boast’s the nation’s highest unemployment rate and one of the more stagnant economies in the county, it can be surprising to many non-Nevadans on the rampant popularity of the state’s governor, Brian Sandoval. It’s a popularity that’s translated to a prime time speaking spot tonight during the 2012 Republican National Convention. Despite budget cuts and the aforementioned high unemployment, Sandoval is a rising star in the GOP landscape for a handful of reasons.
1. He’s popular.
Indeed, polling throughout the summer showed a 52/28 approval rating, making him one of the most popular governors in the country. In a fabulous article by the Las Vegas Sun, Sandoval’s success is characterized as such:
Since becoming governor, Sandoval has become the most popular politician in the state. He has done this by weaving himself as a fiscal conservative, but not extreme, with a moderate tact on potentially explosive issues like gay rights and immigration.
Most importantly, though, he has an affable personality, a nice guy schtick (he loves Nevada history and handing out coins) to pair with his politician’s good looks and unnaturally relentless discipline when it comes to delivering his political message.
This public persona has led to the nickname in the media of “Gov. Sunny.”
While helped by Nevada’s largely apathetic political climate, Sandoval has been able to flex his positives with residents, and turn the conversation away from the glacial pace of state job creation. Though his political moderation, especially regarding abortion (Sandoval is pro-choice) hurts him on a national stage, it’s done wonders within the state.
2. He’s not Jim Gibbons
Comparing Sandoval to previous Governor Jim Gibbons is without a doubt a study in nearly polar opposites. Gibbons, who has a full laundry list of controversies like sexual assault allegations, undeclared donations & much more, regularly saw approval ratings around 10/59 during his term. And even though both Gibbons and Sandoval are Republican, it’s clear that Sandoval, a former district judge, is much more polished than his predecessor. His biggest mistake in the last two years? An early & ultimately wasted endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Sandoval is polished, knows how to stay on message, and could be auditioning for a role in Mitt Romney’s Cabinet.
3. He’s Hispanic
In a party that’s often accused of alienating Hispanics, Sandoval, along with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, is seen as a way to bridge the gap between historically left-leaning Hispanic vote and Republicans. And in a conference call to reporters yesterday, Sandoval said that he’d focus on business and job growth during his speech, especially relating to Hispanics. And with the Hispanic population quickly becoming a much more forceful presence in politics (Nevada’s Hispanic population is about 26%), it’s imperative for Republicans to utilize people like Sandoval as ways to attract Hispanics.
And by having a popular, non-controversial Hispanic Governor of a swing state deliver a prime-time adress, the national Republican party is doing just that.