The Las Vegas Sun's Jon Ralston tweeted this rather remarkable photo this week, showing a new billboard in Las Vegas, which offers "a stark reminder of the Ron Paul takeover of the Republican Party in the state's largest county."
The message is unmistakable: Ron Paul is like Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney is like George W. Bush. The latter is not meant kindly, I assure you.
Also advertised on the billboard is Oathkeepers, a group calling its members patriots but who critics refer to as paranoiacs of the first order.... I swear, folks: The Republicans here are better than any act on the Strip.
Three-quarters of Nevada's residents live in Clark County. For its Republican Party to have been taken over by Ron Paul acolytes who have little use for Romney's candidacy is no small development in an election year in which Nevada is expected to be a key battleground.
Indeed, the larger significance goes well beyond the billboard. Paul supporters have seized control of much of the state party's apparatus, which in turn has caused panic among GOP officials in Nevada and D.C.
Ralston reported a few weeks ago that major Republican donors have begun setting up a "shadow state party," organized in part with the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, to function outside the Paul-run state party. A GOP consultant told Ralston, "There will still be a significant amount of money spent here," said Robert Uithoven, a GOP consultant. (But) the money will be spent around the state party and not through it. And that's never a good thing."
Another Republican official added that if the party does well in 2012, "it will be in spite of the state party, not because of it."
Remember, Nevada is a state where party organizations and machines are considered critically important, and the state isn't just home to a presidential battleground -- there's a very competitive U.S. Senate race in Nevada this year, and the fate of the Senate majority may rest on the outcome.