“Seattle liberal Marty O’Donnell” is how Drew Johnson describes his main opponent in the Republican primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in Nevada’s third congressional district.

The consultants behind Joe Lombardo’s successful 2022 campaign for governor are probably fine with that. They’re advising O’Donnell, and Lombardo has endorsed him. If their guy wins the primary, they’d prefer he didn’t go into the general election branded as just another megaMAGAhead. Garden-variety slights like the one lobbed by Johnson don’t hurt.

A smackdown of O’Donnell on Musk Twitter this month from Nevada Republican National Committeewoman, failed candidate for Nevada attorney general in 2022, and super cringy Trumper Sigal Chattah similarly gives voters the idea that O’Donnell might be a – gasp! – non-MAGA-American. After all, if Chattah doesn’t approve of him…

Okay, you might be wondering, Marty O’Who?

O’Donnell, as it happens, is marginally famous, or at least celebrated, in certain sub-sectors of the entertainment industry. He composed theme songs not only for wildly popular video games but also – and more recognizably – the Reagan-era Flintstones Vitamins jingle“We are Flintstones kids, 10 million strong & growing!”

Eh, maybe you had to be there. (And yes while catchy, it can’t hold a candle to the best Flintstonesian composition of all, the marvelously swinging and frolicking theme song for the animated Flintstones TV show that would become sort of a jazz standard and get a clever cover by the B-52s, but I digress).

O’Donnell’s music industry success translates to a key prerequisite for challenging a Democratic incumbent in a campaign for the U.S. House. No, not a command of public policy. A capacity to self-fund.

Lombardo’s command of public policy was also not the attraction when Republican operatives Mark Hutchison, Ryan Erwin, and Mike Slanker hooked up with Lombardo’s campaign for governor. Rather, it was Lombardo’s history of winning elections in nonpartisan races in Democratic voter-rich Clark County.

Lombardo’s prior nonpartisan status, combined with the default goodwill that many voters give to a sheriff, especially one they’ve already voted for once or twice, may not have indicated Lombardo would be a particularly good governor.

But those factors did indicate he would be a very promising solution to a Republican Southern Nevada math problem.

O’Donnell, in addition to his bankbook, also enters the political fray with virtually zero indication that he would be an effective member of Congress. 

O’Donnell hasn’t demonstrated much of a grasp public policy details. His campaign website is as contemporarily elegant as one might expect from a composer for a smashingly successful video game. It’s feather-light on positions, though.

Again, his/Lombardo’s political operatives probably wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s easier for someone – Susie Lee, in this instance – to run against an opponent with a history of taking positions on contentious public issues. Running against a a blank slate is harder.

In other words, O’Donnell presents Nevada’s most accomplished Republican operatives not with a highly qualified candidate, but something far more important: yet another promising solution to a Republican Southern Nevada math problem.

O’Donnell has shown a working familiarity with boilerplate Republican riffs on immigration and “big government.”

But he’s also playing some decidedly more Democratic-friendly notes.

“Corporate profits are skyrocketing, thanks to loopholes and lobbyists,” O’Donnell says in one ad. “Big corporate executives” are “lobbying to control” the federal government, he says in another. Quoting a Wall Street Journal headline, the latter ad also asserts “Big profits and high prices: There is a connection.”

That’s quite the departure from the Lombardo-preferred narrative, in which high prices are solely the fault of Joe Biden.

In fact, O’Donnell has made populist disgust with corporate control of government and the economy pretty much the point of his campaign.

O’Donnell’s stated desire to reward the laboring class and rein in the rich and corporate could hit a snag, though.

Like every Republican everywhere anymore, O’Donnell has aligned himself with Trump, about whom a Republican candidate must never mutter a discouraging word.

At Mar-a-Lago in April, Trump offered oil industry campaign donors – “big corporate executives,” as O’Donnell would say – what Trump called a “deal”: If they raised a billion dollars for Trump’s campaign, they would be rewarded several times over by all the tax breaks and regulatory coddling they would receive from his administration. 

Trump has offered similar deals to multiple other special interests.

If O’Donnell wins the primary, we’ll see if he and the creme de la creme of the Nevada Republican consultant class can write a catchy jingle to make voters want to buy that.

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