In a letter issued Thursday by his re-election campaign, the first-term Republican offered a trip from Reno on March 26 to the first 10 people who donate $250 or more. It said the bus will "meet up" with the governor the next day in Laughlin for the rest of the trip to a rally dubbed by the Tea Party Express movement as a "showdown" in Searchlight, the home of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Eric Herzik, political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said Gibbons' approach makes sense, given his underdog candidacy.
"Gibbons has very little money, and large donors certainly aren't flocking to his cause," Herzik said. "So he's going after small donors. And the free media he'll get out of this is worth as much as $250 he might get out of a small donor.
"This is less about money than about aligning with the tea party movement," Herzik said.
Reid, seeking a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, is a main target of Republicans in the fall election and has become a lightning rod to rally conservative activists.
Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is scheduled to attend the rally, as are other personalities, talk show hosts and candidates who espouse smaller government and less taxes.
Danny Tarkanian, one of 11 Republicans seeking the GOP nomination to run against Reid, is planning to take two busloads of supporters from Las Vegas to the rally. So is Sue Lowden, former state senator and state party chairwoman. Another Republican Senate hopeful, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, said she also will attend.
"Every Republican is going to be down there saying, 'I am the true tea partier,'" Herzik said.
In his campaign letter, Gibbons took a shot at his main Republican rival, former federal judge Brian Sandoval, saying "Nevada has been under threat for the last decade of increasing taxes and every increasing government spending."
While not naming Sandoval, his letter referenced the 2003 tax fight, when Sandoval, then state attorney general, went to the Nevada Supreme Court on behalf of Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn to end a stalemate over a tax battle that dragged on for a month.
The court, saying the Legislature was constitutionally obligated to fund public education, set aside a voter-approved constitutional amendment requiring any new taxes be passed by two-thirds of the Legislature, though the tax package ultimately passed with a supermajority. Two years later, the court reversed its position.
Gibbons in his flyers said many politicians in Nevada would "push aside" the state constitution to "expand the tax base and increase the reach of government."
Sandoval, who has said he's opposed to tax increases, in response said Gibbons raised taxes and fees approved by lawmakers in a special legislative session in February.
He also defended the 2003 suit against the Legislature as having nothing to do with raising taxes, but "about funding education and balancing the state budget as required by the Nevada Constitution."
"My record on the matter is very well documented," Sandoval said.
Campaign disclosures show Sandoval with a huge fundraising advantage over Gibbons, whose first term has been dogged by personal missteps, a messy divorce and a brutal economy that would make any incumbent vulnerable. Nevada has a 13 percent unemployment rate and leads the nation in foreclosures.
Sandoval, who resigned from a lifetime appointment to the federal bench in September to challenge Gibbons, reported receiving more than $900,000 in contributions in three months of fundraising. Gibbons, after three years in office, reported receiving $165,000.