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Laxalt still bleeding from potentially mortal political wound

On Wednesday afternoon, Jon Ralston – Nevada’s #2 liberal blogger and unofficial communications director for the Nevada Democrat Party – dropped a stink bomb on Republican attorney general candidate Adam Laxalt by publishing brutally negative internal review notations relating to a two-year-old confidential performance evaluation by Laxalt’s former law firm.

The material in the notes is an opposition researcher’s dream.  The negative radio and television ads, not to mention voter contact mailers, write themselves.

The memo absolutely has the potential to do to Laxalt’s campaign what the “chickens for checkups” brouhaha did to Sue Lowden’s U.S. senate campaign in 2010 if Laxalt’s team doesn’t quickly stop the hemorrhaging.

Unfortunately, the campaign’s immediate response was pretty much limited to questioning the authenticity of the document and suggesting that it was unlawfully obtained.  But as Joe Gaylord – my “professor” some 20 years ago at the Campaign Management College in Washington, DC – is wont to say, “The only law not broken in a political campaign is Murphy’s Law.”

Some observations as the sun rose here at Campland on the Bay in San Diego…

1.)  It was hilariously comical to watch Ralston joyously reveling in a passage in the review that criticized Laxalt’s writing skills.

If it’s “‘typing’ skills that are the problem,” wrote reviewing attorney Joice Bass, “there is Spell Check for that.  But, time and again, he (Laxalt) has chosen not to use this technological function.”

What’s funny about this is the fact that Ralston himself is the “King of Typos” who has yet to master the technological function of spell-check for his own blog.

Although I stopped posting regularly some time ago because it was so time-consuming to keep up with all of Ralston’s boo-boos, you can still see what I mean by going to

2.)  An official statement from Laxalt’s former law firm on Thursday acknowledges a serious “security breach” (lawsuit coming to a theater near you?) in having these “confidential documents” released to the public, and asserts that the opinions expressed in those two-year-old internal reviews “do not represent the current view of Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP about Adam.”

Fine and dandy.  But, um, that won’t stop the political bleeding.  The firm’s “current view” is irrelevant.  The damage is done.  Anything less than identifying the leaker and quickly firing them in a very public manner will suffice.  And even that might not be enough.

3.)  The Laxalt campaign’s response to the Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP statement was not well thought out and actually buttressed one of the biggest criticisms of Laxalt in the two-year-old review; that Laxalt thought far more highly of his own abilities than those who reviewed him.

Laxalt’s prepared response devoted five full paragraphs to boasting about Laxalt’s experience, performance and accomplishments.

Strategically, not a smart move…as any good direct response marketer will tell you.  Instead, Laxalt should have had OTHER PEOPLE testify to his experience, performance and accomplishments.

Every candidate for public office claims to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.  But because so many politicians lie through their teeth almost every time they open their mouths (hello, Michael Roberson!), the public no longer takes at face value anything that any politician says, especially about themselves.

Third-party testimonials are much more powerful…and believable.

4.)  Forget where’s Waldo; where’s Sandoval?

Last March, after Laxalt filed to run for attorney general, his fellow Republican and top-of-the-ticket candidate, Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I’m honored to endorse Adam Laxalt’s campaign for Attorney General.  I look forward to working with him as Nevada’s next Attorney General.”

That was then.  This is now.

Now, unless I missed a memo somewhere, Sandoval has yet to issue a statement reaffirming his unqualified support for his embattled GOP attorney general candidate in response to the performance review kerfuffle.  Instead Sandoval appears to have run from Laxalt like a scalded dog and may well be holed up in Dick Cheney’s secret, undisclosed bunker.

When the going gets tough, Sandoval gets going.

With “friends” like that in the foxhole with you…


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