Saturday, September 08, 2018

Nevada U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

59 Days Until Election Day

Nevada U.S. Senate

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

Democrats look to the Senate contest in Nevada, as their best pickup opportunity this cycle, as it is the one Republican held seat in a state won by Hillary Clinton and lost by Donald Trump. That is far from a given though and the GOP should be comforted that the situation is not worse than it is.

In 2011, a Republican Senator, besieged by scandal resigned, and Nevada's GOP Governor appointed Dean Heller, a well regarded Congressman from the state's most conservative district to fill the vacancy. Before going to Washington, Heller was elected three times statewide as Secretary of State. Despite his statewide experience, and even after being appointed to the U.S. Senate, Heller was considered the lesser known of the two Senate nominees in 2012. His opponent was Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who represented a Las Vegas based district, and had long been active in politics before that. The polls remained close and as the campaign progressed, questions emerged about her personal finances and influence peddling. Even as Barack Obama carried the state, Heller won a full term by the very close margin of 46-45, with the rest going to a third party candidate or "None of These Candidates." Democrats were left wishing they had nominated someone with less baggage.

In Washington, Heller had been considered one of the more moderate Republican Senators, but consistent with the political makeup of his state. In 2016, as was the case with several other Mormon Republican political figures, he expressed his reservations about Donald Trump, and in his case called himself, "vehemently opposed" to the Presidential candidacy. Once Trump came to Washington, Heller was watched as someone who might prove to be frustrating to the Administration on issues such as health care and immigration.

In 2017, the very pro-Trump Danny Tarkanian announced he would challenge Heller in the primary. While the conservative businessman had been unsuccessful in many attempts for office ,he did have high name recognition from his recent campaigns, which included a primary effort for the Senate in 2010 and losing competitive Congressional races in 2012 and 2016. More so, his name was well known throughout the state because his late father Jerry "The Shark" Tarkanian was a longtime basketball coach who won a national championship leading UNLV. Danny's mother Lois Tarkanian was active politically and served as a Democrat on the Las Vegas City Council, but has continued to support her son's political efforts.

There appeared to be a very real possibility that pro-Trump primary voters could oust the incumbent in favor of a candidate who would then struggle to win a general election. Mitch McConnell or someone must have pointed this out to Trump, because out of the blue in March of this year, the Tweeter in Chief sent out a message endorsing Heller for reelection and suggesting that Tarkanian run again for an open Congressional seat. The challenger was likely surprised but had little choice but to do so and is now once again a U.S. House nominee. Perhaps not too surprisingly, since this move, Heller has seemed to get much closer to Trump on legislative initiatives and has not spoken ill of him. In the June primary, Heller was easily renominated with 70 percent of the vote, but clearly there was some infra-party opposition. Eighteen percent of the vote went to the closest challenger, Air Force veteran Tom Heck, a pro-Trump candidate whom some voters might have confused with former Congressman and 2016 Senate nominee Joe Heck (even though Joe Heck wound up opposing Trump at the end of that cycle and might possibly have lost the election due to that.) In fact Tom Heck failed in a primary bid against Joe Heck for that Senate nomination. It's either a Heck of a or a Heller of a situation.

Democrats united fairly quickly around the candidacy of Jacky Rosen, whom had just defeated Danny Tarkanian in 2016 to win a seat in the U.S. House from a suburban Las Vegas district. She had been very active in her area's Jewish community, and had received the notice of state powerbroker Harry Reid, then a U.S. Senator, whom recruited her into politics. She has proven her ability to raise large amounts of money for her campaigns. She took over two thirds in the primary this year against little known opponents and the none of the above option.

If this were a rematch between Rosen and Tarkanian, statewide this time, there would be little doubt that the Democrat would be a solid frontrunner. Trump's intervention though has allowed Republicans to avoid that kind of mess though in a primary and they are far more into the game because of it. Of course, for better or worse, Heller will have to account for Trump's support in this election, where a lot of voters may be motivated to vote against Trump allies. The current President has gotten involved in this race and coined the nickname "Wacky Jacky" for the Democrat.

As was the case in the 2012 campaign, Republicans are trying to raise ethical concerns about Heller's opponent. One issue relates to her use of campaign funds to hire legal counsel to defend against a defamation suit brought against her by Danny Tarkanian for negative campaign ads. She also received much criticism for alleged resume inflation in regards to claiming a degree she did not received and that she built a small business, which there is no record of. Defenders claim that being an independent contractor qualifies as being an entrepreneur. They also have tried to turn the tables on Heller by claiming the Senator did not return campaign contributions from a company that had donated illegally.

Polls show a very close race, although with perhaps a slight edge for Rosen, Once again though, Democrats might not have nominated their strongest potential statewide candidate. As Republicans have managed to win all recent Gubernatorial contests in Nevada, Democrats have won close to all highly targeted federal races in the state, usually with Harry Reid and his political organization very much involved, to the frustration of Republicans. One reason might be that Republicans are put in an awkward position in the state over the Yucca Mountain issue of nuclear waste storage and how these Nevada Republicans are left opposing others in the party on behalf of resident concerns.

Democrats have a lot of red state Senate seats to defend this cycle, but Republicans will have their hands full with this blue state seat, and theoretically the balance of power may swing on it. There is no reason to suggest this race is anything but a tossup and plurality victory, perhaps even in the mid 40s once again, is possible. Any sort of significant national wave on behalf of Democrats though could tip this to Rosen and that seems fairly possible right now also.

 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
13 D (7 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Leans, 3 Tossup)
  6 R (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
36 D (23 holdovers, 7 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Leans, 3 Tossup)
48 R (42 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Tossup)


At 2:52 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Heller holds on.


Post a Comment

<< Home