The Midterms: Nevada

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

Three states to go in this series starting out west in Nevada.  An open gubernatorial race, an endangered Republican Senator and two of four open House races are featured.


In that Senate race, GOP incumbent Dean Heller is opposed by Jacky Rosen who vacates the Third District for this Senate run.  Heller has a 37% approval rating according to Morning Consult against 44% disapproval.  This is not good territory to be in for an incumbent.  However, others have been in worse shape and pulled out a victory in the past.

Both President Trump and the popular outgoing Republican Governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, have campaigned for and endorsed Heller.  Trump garnered 45% of the vote in 2016 and his approval rating in the state still hovers around 44%.  Heller has gone on the attack accusing Rosen of being soft on immigration enforcement and invoking the specter of MS-13.  This caused her to come out with a response ad indicating it scored some points.  The NRSC and Heller have also run ads noting that Rosen has received over $1.9 million from California donors insinuating she favors California-style policies.  And they have attacked her for puffing up her business resume.  Again, she had to respond.  Specifically, they contend she never had a business license and never hired any employees.  According to sources, she was not required to have one from the state for her one-person consulting business, but was required by the city of Henderson who cannot seem to find one.  For her part, she responded she “believes” she filed the appropriate paperwork, but discarded her old files.


Her main attack on Heller is his waffling on certain issues, particularly Obamacare repeal, before finally voting for repeal.  She characterizes Heller as an inflatable tube man wafting in the political breeze.  She also ran some Spanish-language ads regarding the separation of children from illegal immigrants at the border saying Heller was silent at the time.

Overall, across 23 polls, Heller trails by a single point.  Pre-Kavanaugh, he was down 1.5 points on 13 polls, but now less than only a single point over 10 polls post-Kavanaugh.  One would like to see greater movement to be more confident in Heller’s chances.

The open Third District race will feature perennial candidate for anything in Nevada- Danny Tarkanian- for the GOP against Democrat Susie Lee.  This is a Las Vegas area seat being vacated by Rosen that has had two Democratic and two Republican reps since being formed for the 2008 election.  Cook gives it no partisan advantage, so this would seem like a chance for the GOP.  However, there is one drawback: Tarkanian, a certified loser in past elections.  Simply, given his business background and series of bad loans and publicity, the GOP may have missed an opportunity here.  Perhaps that is why the NRCC is pulling money out of this race and no outside groups rushed in to fill the void.

The Fourth District became an open race when Democrat Ruben Kihuen decided to retire amid allegations of sexual harassment by campaign workers and former staffers when he was a state legislator.  Two former Congressmen- Republican Crescent Hardy and Democrat Steve Horsford- will try to win back their former seat.  The GOP believes this is a more winnable seat than the Third and has diverted spending into this race.  If there is a seat to flip here, it will likely be the Fourth.


In that important open gubernatorial race, termed-out Republican Brian Sandoval leaves office with a 56% approval rating.  As we saw in Michigan with Snyder refusing to endorse fellow Republican Bill Schuette as his successor, Sandoval has refused to endorse Laxalt.  The difference is that Sandoval leaves office considerably more popular than Snyder and an endorsement would go a long way to putting Laxalt over the finish line.

So why is Sandoval in such a snit?  Laxalt has spoken out against several Sandoval initiatives.  For example, he is against Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.  He opposed a school funding bill proposed and eventually signed by Sandoval.  And, Laxalt has proposed a business tax rescission which Sandoval says would ruin Nevada’s financial situation.  He even told the New York Times that he could not support anyone who could potentially ruin his legacy.  And Democrats are playing up the non-endorsement for all it is worth.

The Democratic Party’s candidate is Steve Sisolak, a Clark County commissioner.  His obvious base is in the Las Vegas area- home to the bulk of Nevada’s population.  He recently received the backing of Reno’s independent mayor as he tries to make some inroads in other parts of the state.  Laxalt has gone on the attack portraying Sisolak as a radical who supports antifa and other such groups.


At issue is the fact that Sisolak and Clark county provided an encampment for protesters in an Occupy Las Vegas event.  Known radical groups, including antifa, had participated.  Sisolak later addressed the protesters noting his agreement with their aims.  He also addressed a group of pro-abortion harpies protesting outside Dean Heller’s office where they displayed the American flag upside down.  How this plays with Nevada’s military personnel and veterans remains to be seen.

Both candidates faced competitive primaries with the Democratic one being more so.  Even still, turnout was about even with a mere 4,000 Democratic advantage.  This is reflected in polling thus far.  Over the span of 19 polls, this race is a virtual dead heat with Sisolak leading by only 0.2 points.  The Laxalt name resonates in Nevada and this one will likely go down to the wire.  The question is whether voters really believe Laxalt will hurt the legacy of Sandoval, and if so, are they willing to send Sisolak to Reno?  Over 11,000 Nevada primary voters pulled the “none of the above” lever.  Winning them over may make the difference either way.

Despite the NRCC’s confidence in Crescent Hardy in the 4th, this writer believes the partisan advantage will remain 3-1 for the Democrats in the House delegation.  The fact that an unpopular incumbent has stayed so close with his Democratic opponent in the Senate race leads one to believe that Heller will win a very close race.  Likewise, despite repeated attacks and the non-endorsement by Sandoval, the fact Laxalt is in a dead heat against his Democratic opponent in the Governor’s race, in an even closer race than the Senate one, Laxalt will prevail.


After this entry, the numbers are:

US Senate 52-44 Republican, US House 196-194 Republican, and Governors 30-18 Republican.

Next: Pennsylvania


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