The Electoral Map: Nevada

Nevada figures prominently in many races this year- the control of the Senate, potential Democratic gains in the House, and the presidential race and their 6 electoral votes.

Two of the House seats are safe for incumbents- Democrat Dana Titus in the First and Mark Amodei in the Second for the GOP.  In the Third, GOP incumbent Joe Heck is leaving this an open race as he is running for the Senate this year.  In the GOP primary, Danny Tarkanian won a close race over the much-preferred Michael Roberson.  Tarkanian is very active in Nevada politics having previously run for the House in the 4th District in 2012 and losing the general election race.  For the Democrats, it will be their preferred candidate, Jacky Rosen, who is a close associate of outgoing Senator Harry Reid.  Primary turnout slightly favored the GOP this year, but that should change in the general election.  This district includes the southern tip of the state and parts of Las Vegas where Reid’s influence and that of unions looms large.

This writer does not have much hope in a GOP victory here and limited polling seems to confirm a Democratic win and House seat pick up here.  Joe Heck held this seat because he was a more centrist, moderate representative and Tarkanian does not seem to fit that mold.  Hence, expect a Democratic seat pick up here.

In the Fourth, which encompasses a large area to the north of Las Vegas, Republican Crescent Hardy won this seat in 2014 ousting Democrat Steve Horsford in somewhat of a surprise victory.  This year, he defends his seat against the preferred Democratic candidate, Ruben Kihuen.  Even before Kihuen’s primary victory, most pundits pegged Hardy as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents.  The fact is that in a GOP wave year in 2014, Hardy barely won the seat by about 2 points.  This year, with a battle at the top of the ticket and increased Democratic turnout (primary turnout favored the Democrats), one can also expect Hardy to go down to defeat.

In the Senate race, Third District Congressman Joe Heck will face off against Catherine Cortez Masto, the former state Attorney General.  This is a marquee race of vital importance to the balance of power in the Senate.  Here is the good news: union and Democratic operatives in Nevada describe Heck as one of the hardest working members of Congress who listens to his constituents.  There are stories that he is learning Spanish to better communicate with the Hispanic community in the District/state.

The bad news is that as far as polling goes, Heck ended August with an average 3.3 lead on his Democratic rival.  As the top of the ticket plunged in October, Heck’s lead over Cortez-Masto was cut in half to 1.58.  Today, it stands at 1.2 indicating he is headed in the wrong direction.  He has trailed in four out of 5 polls in November to date and eight of the last ten overall dating back into October.  Hence, momentum seems to be on the side of the Democrats.

Once again, the importance of this seat cannot be understated.  With projected losses elsewhere, the RNC and RSCC is counting heavily on a victory here to offset anticipated losses elsewhere.  Additionally, this is the seat of Harry Reid.  The GOP brain trust believed that Heck was their best chance and he easily defeated a primary challenge from his right in the form of Sharron Angle.  There is a lot invested here and if Heck prevails- not a given at this point- it will not be by much and we may be waiting a few days before this race is officially called.

In the presidential race, polling is all over the map heading into Election Day.  Of 12 polls in 4 days in Nevada, Trump trails in seven, leads in one and is tied in four.  In essence, the race is a virtual toss up for the 6 electoral votes.  And this state is vital for Trump’s chances.  Even if he takes Ohio and Florida, he would still need Nevada.  One wonders, given his rhetoric, how much his “Mexican rapist” theme hurt his chances in the state with it’s large Hispanic population.  Basically, he may have dug a huge hole for himself from the start.  However, the fact he is polling so close to Clinton this late in the game in this state could foretell his fortunes.

In the end, it is hard to predict the outcome here.  Theoretically, he should be dead in the water in Nevada.  Part of this is because he is running against such a flawed candidate in Hillary Clinton.  This makes one wonder what this analysis would have looked like had the GOP candidate been Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.  I think we would have been seeing it a little different.  For these reasons, although it may be moot by time the Nevada results come in given results in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina- three states Trump MUST win if he has any chance- that hole he dug himself may just be too deep to crawl out of so late in the game.  It will be close- less than 3 points- but one would have to give Nevada to Clinton.

Again, these articles work under a worst-case scenario for the GOP, so: Republicans will lose two seats in the House yet maintain their advantage 234-201.  Heck will lose a close one and control of the Senate will revert to the Democrats 51-49 after this entry.  And Nevada will put Clinton over the top after this entry, 274-215 in the electoral vote count.

Later today: Pennsylvania