You’ve probably never heard of Mark Hutchison. Heck, maybe you even think he was the lead singer of INXS. (He wasn’t.) It doesn’t matter. For a variety of reasons, this Nevada state senator is arguably the most important political candidate in America.
That’s because Majority Leader Harry Reid’s future probably hinges on whether or not Hutchison’s political career takes off.
If this sounds complicated, it is. Here’s the backstory: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is up for re-election in 2014. Sandoval is currently running unopposed, largely because his approval rating hovers around 60 percent (a statistic made more impressive by the fact that he also enjoys a “62 percent favorability rating among Nevada Hispanic voters.”)
If Sandoval wins in 2014 (as he is expected to), there is anticipation he will challenge Reid in 2016. (This would obviously be a stark contrast to Reid’s last campaign against Sharron Angle.)
But here’s the problem. In Nevada, the governor and Lt. governor don’t run together as a ticket. And Sandoval won’t willingly surrender his gubernatorial seat to a Democrat or to a weak Republican (who might cause him problems — or lose the subsequent election to a Democrat.)
Nevada’s current Republican Lt. governor is term limited, and can’t run for re-election in 2014. As such, Harry Reid’s political future may hinge on the ability of Republicans to nominate and elect a Lt. governor that meets Sandoval’s seal of approval.
And as the Las Vegas Sun reported this summer, upon announcing his candidacy, Hutchison “immediately received the endorsement of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who personally tweeted that Hutchison ‘will make a tremendous Lt. Governor and I look forward to campaigning with him.’”
So there you have it, Harry Reid’s fortunes seem inversely related to Hutchison’s. This, of course, is a big deal that nobody is really talking about. (I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why ousting the sitting Senate Majority Leader — and replacing him with an Hispanic Republican Senator — would be huge.)