It’s now official: A week after he announced that he was being targeted by the Attorney General’s office, Nevada Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki was indicted yesterday on four charges of misappropriation and falsification of accounts. The indictement is related to Krolicki’s management of a multimillion college savings program while he was state Treasurer. (The AP provides more details here.)
This is an early blow to the GOP’s 2010 prospects, as Krolicki was arguably the strongest potential opponent to Democratic Senator Harry Reid. But it is difficult to imagine Krolicki jumping in the race with an indictment hanging over his head. Not only would he have trouble attracting voters, he would also be distracted by his legal troubles and he would not be able to mount a credible campaign - particularly on the fundraising front.
Krolicki’s future aside, this development is yet another nail on the coffin of Nevada’s Republican Party. Not only did Barack Obama swamp John McCain by 12% (a turnaround of 17% since 2004), but the GOP has been dragged down by the scandals surrounding Governor Jim Gibbons - whether his messy divorce, claims of sexual assault and undisclosed donations. Gibbons’s unpopuarlity and the state’s new bluish shade is fueling Democratic hopes of reclaiming the governor’s mansion and saving Reid from a difficult contest - and Krolicki’s indictment will only further the GOP’s gloom.
With Krolicki probably out of the Senate race, all eyes turn to Rep. Ron Porter, who was just defeated this past November. Other lesser-known Republicans could mount credible challenges to Reid, but Porter’s candidacy might keep them away. Keep in mind that this is not a race in which a Republican challenger can wait very long before jumping in.
In Florida, however, there is little doubt that the GOP will find a top-tier candidate to take Mel Martinez’s place. The party has a strong bench in the state - so much so that some Republicans are excited that they have a chance to replace the vulnerable Martinez with an unbeatable GOPer.
And that’s exactly how many Republicans are reacting to the news that former Governor Jeb Bush is considering jumping in the Senate race. Bush himself acknowledged as much yesterday to numerous news organization. Bush’s popularity - as evidenced by his easy re-election in 2002 - would make him a very tough opponent for any Democrat to beat.
On the other hand, Bush might not be quite as invicible as some Republicans might be hoping - and would not be as sure a bet as current Governor Charlie Crist. His last name is bound to drag him down even if voters have forgotten how much they disliked George Bush’s Administration by then. After all, Jeb has not faced voters since 2002 - a good year for the GOP in which George Bush was still very popular. He has thus never had to separate himself from his brother - and we do not know how successful he would be at doing so.
The main advantage of Bush candidacy would be to dissuade other Republicans of running (thereby clearing the GOP primary) and perhaps scare some prominent Democrats away from the race.