Dean’s in, Dan’s out

Until last week, two Republican U.S. Senate candidates battled over who was the most loyal to Donald Trump, essentially fighting to make themselves less palatable in the general election campaign. Then, suddenly, the whole race shifted.

Republican Danny Tarkanian began this election year with five unsuccessful races behind him. Now, without a vote yet being cast, it is six unsuccessful races.

Tarkanian first ran this year in the U.S. Senate primary against his fellow Republican, embattled incumbent Dean Heller. Then last week, on the final day of filing, he switched races to a U.S. House district in southern Nevada that he lost two years ago and where he will face three other Republicans—two state legislators and a former TV newsperson.

Now, as he embarks on his seventh race, Tarkanian doesn’t even get credit for making the decision himself. For some reason, he wanted a public statement from Donald Trump asking him to switch races before he would make the change for Heller, prompting Trump to issue one of his tweets (“It would be great for the Republican Party of Nevada”) and making Tarkanian appear to be a Trump puppet. A reader comment on a story by the Nevada Independent about the switch reads, “Danny’s a real independent thinker, isn’t he?”

The Nevada Democratic Party called it a “backroom deal,” but it was done pretty publicly. Tarkanian would probably have been better off if it had been done in a back room.

Paradoxically, just before he dropped out of the Senate race in what he portrayed as an act of fealty to Trump, one of Heller’s backers—the Senate Leadership Fund, associated with Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell—had been portraying Tarkanian as attacking Trump: “TRASH-TALKING TARKANIAN TEES OFF ON TRUMP.” Their examples of Tarkanian attacks on Trump were pretty lame, such as the way Trump “worded things,” but they were all that was available.

One other aspect of this story—the Reno Gazette Journal reported that on March 1, former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin repeated her August endorsement of Tarkanian against Heller, just in time for his withdrawal.