Brian Sandoval: The Stay-at-Home Governor

by | November 20, 2014 AT 10:50 AM

By Kyle Roerink

The annual conference of the Republican Governors Association could double as a who's who of politicians with ambitions for higher office.

But notably absent from this week's GOP confab in tony Boca Raton, Fla., is Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, often ballyhooed as a candidate for the U.S. Senate or vice president.

"He's much more focused on issues at home," said Greg Ferraro, a lobbyist and adviser to Sandoval, who coasted to re-election earlier this month with more than 70 percent of the vote.

The conference, at an opulent, palm-tree dotted resort, is playing more like a presidential primary event than a working conference.

Presidential hopefuls in attendance: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

They were peppered with questions on topics of national import such as Medicaid expansion and immigration. They were also celebrating the Republican wave that washed Democrats out of seats in Congress, state legislatures and statewide offices on Nov. 4.

Christie even found time to squeeze in a visit with GOP donors.

"They're not doing any work there," said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sandoval, meanwhile, has signaled he's not ready to leave the desert for Washington anytime soon. He hasn't said whether he would leave the governorship midterm to challenge U.S. Sen. Harry Reid or hop onto a presidential ticket.

His post-election mantras have been "we still have work to do" and "continue the comeback," referring to the 100,000 jobs created in Nevada since his 2010 election.

In Nevada, he is tasked with preparing the budget for the upcoming legislative session and continuing to cut the state's unemployment rate, which Nevada is doing faster than 48 other states.

"Because of his popularity in Nevada, Sandoval's name is now going to get slotted into all kinds of things," Herzik said. "It's easy to speculate about his future."

While Sandoval has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, political observers haven't linked him with any of his fellow Republican governors as a good fit for the presidential ticket.

Herzik said governors don't usually team up on the ballot.

Six teams of governors or former governors have been victorious on the presidential ballot, but the last was in 1912, when voters elected the Democratic governors Woodrow Wilson and Thomas R. Marshall.

In 1948, Republican governors Thomas Dewey and Earl Warren lost to Harry Truman and Alben Barkley.

At this week's conference, the Republican front-runners for president assured reporters they were focused on policies back in their home states rather than their unspoken but well-known aspirations.

After this event, they might not be as collegial.

The 2016 election has -- in de facto terms -- already begun. That may force Republican presidential candidates to cut out the social niceties and revert to campaign mode.

Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is likely to announce his bid for presidency next year.

Walker is expected to do the same.

(c)2014 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)