There’s no shortage of high-profile Republicans gearing up for the 2016 presidential race, but there’s one name that probably should be in the mix, but isn’t.
Imagine a popular Republican governor, easily elected twice in a battleground state President Obama won twice. Imagine he’s Hispanic, young, won re-election last year by a ridiculous 46 points, and has seen his state’s unemployment rate drop quickly in recent years.
I’m referring to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who seems like an almost-perfect presidential candidate for his party, but who hasn’t even considered testing the White House waters.
To understand why, consider Sandoval’s perspective on the pending Supreme Court case that may gut the Affordable Care Act.
“I made a decision early on that we would be a state-based exchange because I felt it was in Nevadans’ best interest to run their own,” Sandoval said, even boasting that twice as many Nevadans enrolled this year over the first round. “I’m just pleased,” he added, “that we don’t have the anxiety of the outcome King v. Burwell.”
At first blush, this may not seem striking at all – a governor embraced a sensible policy that helped his constituents have access to basic medical care. It’s the sort of thing most Americans might expect every well-intentioned governor to do as a matter of course.
But in political terms, we’re talking about a Republican governor who embraced the dreaded “Obamacare” – including Medicaid expansion – and is “pleased” he implemented the Affordable Care Act in a way that may help protect his state from his party’s Supreme Court justices.
The Nevada Republican also sided with congressional Democrats on unemployment benefits, and when the courts struck down the state ban on marriage equality, Sandoval didn’t see the point in putting up a fight.
This isn’t to say the governor is some kind of Republican In Name Only – he’s really not – but he has demonstrated some pragmatism and moderation on some key issues.
And the result is the kind of record that GOP voters in a presidential primary would reflexively reject out of hand.
Postscript: I’ve seen some suggestions that Sandoval could join the Republican ticket as a vice presidential candidate. Anything’s possible, but the Nevada governor is pro-choice. How many pro-choice candidates have been on the GOP ticket since Roe v. Wade? Zero.