The Governor's Interview: Plus or Minus?

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Since filing for divorce from his wife earlier this year, Governor Jim Gibbons has, for the most part, declined to publicly discuss his personal life.

Monday, the Governor departed from that policy, and in an exclusive interview with Pat Hambright, he talked about his divorce and denied any romantic involvement with a pair of married women with whom he’s been seen.

What's potential political fallout from the governor's interview? Did it help resolve an issue that's proved a powerful distraction?

With the state facing severe budget cuts and his approval rating hovering somewhere near 20 percent, most would say the governor can ill afford the distraction of a messy divorce and reports of sightings with a pair of married women.

The governor may have hoped to calm those waters by portraying himself as a man going through a difficult divorce reaching out to friends for companionship.

"I want to find someone that I can come home to, someone that I can share the experience of the day."

But one veteran political observer wonders. "When people are hurting economically as people are in this state, do they care the governor is lonely?" says Dr. Paul Davis of Truckee Meadows Community College. "I've got to tell you, I don't care."

Davis, a registered Republican, says he's puzzled by the governor's move. "It's a Hail Mary strategy," says Davis. "I don't know what he expected to accomplish, perhaps some sympathy. The only word that comes to mind is bizarre."

University of Nevada political scientist Erik Herzik, also a registered Republican disagrees, to a degree. He says the governor is in a no win situation. Talking about his personal life was perhaps not a bad move, Herzik says, but there are no good moves left for the governor.

In his interview, the governor predicted his personal life would have no effect on a possible re-election. The Governor may find himself lonely once more in holding that opinion.

Davis says getting all this behind him will be difficult for the governor. His best shot: concentrate on the issues people really care about. "Come up with an innovative economic initiative," he advised, "something no one's thought of before to turn the economy around." Both Davis and Herzik feel a turnaround is as unlikely as it is difficult.

"He should start building that retirement home in Elko County," said Herzik. "He doesn't recover."
Longtime Republican strategist and former Gibbons aide Robert Uithoven says the governor may face one other consequence from the interview. It's easier to be consistent when you decline to talk about your personal life, he says, Once you open the door, it's hard to go back. If the governor is willing to talk freely on the subject now, he says, then the decision to get it out into the open could still be OK.

One final note: Both sides in the divorce case agreed months ago not to make any public comments about their relationship. Asked if the governor violated that agreement by granting us the interview, Dawn Gibbons' attorney, Cal Dunlap, said "Yes, and it's not the first time."
He declined any further comment.