After the possible taking of Obama's old seat in the Senate in Illinois, the Republican Party has the unique opportunity to take the seat of the current Majority Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid in Nevada. If only Nancy Pelosi would fade away into obscurity, this would be the ideal, most satisfying year in politics.
In the Governor's race in Nevada, incumbent Republican Jim Gibbons lost his primary bid against Brian Sandoval. For this, the Republican Party was thankful given the corruption allegations surrounding Gibbons. Also, yes Howard Dean, the Republican Party has Hispanics in their ranks who can win statewide office. Sandoval, a former Federal judge, is running away with this election. That is especially satisfying since his opponent is Rory Reid, the son of Harry Reid. Could a double Reid loss be in the making in the Silver State? In polling, Sandoval has been at or above the 50% mark since mid-September and shows no signs of weakening. Overall, Sandoval leads by over 16 points on average and it is a safe bet that the Governor's Office in Nevada will remain in Republican hands.
In the Senate race, obviously Harry Reid is the Democratic candidate. Illustrative of Reid's problems in his home state is the fact that in his primary against basically no opposition, Reid only received 75.3% of the vote with 10.6% opting for none of the above. And that is among 116,000 registered Democrats who showed up to vote. In fact, Reid's popularity ratings in Nevada hover around 39% with a 49% disapproval rating. In the Republican primary, the voters were presented with three viable candidates. In pre-primary polling, all three would have beaten Reid in hypothetical races. All candidates had name recognition in the state. Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian evnetually lost to Sharron Angle who. most importantly, had the backing of the Tea Party Express and The Club for Growth.
What I find interesting in this state is that some Republican state officials have actually come out in favor of Reid and offered their endorsement. Perhaps this is bet hedging, something Nevadans are good at, but I call it political prostitution. Regardless, it would appear that most of it is not working, nor is the huge money advantage Reid enjoyed. For example, after the 2Q reports, Reid had raised in excess of $19 million while Angle had raised $3.5 million (97% of it, incidentally, from private contributions). However, Angle raised $14 million in the Third Quarter. And while the Democrats, lead by the Cry Baby-in-Chief, Barack Obama, rails against "outside money" in politics this year, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS has invested in an $800,000 media blitz. However, this merely counters the investment of liberal group, Patriot Majority, which is putting $900,000 into the race.
Despite this huge cash advantage, Reid could not deliver the knock out blow on Angle. She stayed close immediately after the primaries and has surged ahead of late, although not by much. This has been a back-and-forth race in the polls and clearly the momentum is on the side of Angle, especially after their most recent debate. Why? Because despite how they attempt to portray Angle as being way outside the mainstream, of being a right wing extremist, all Angle needs to do is frame the election as a referendum not on national politics and policy specifics, but a referendum on Harry Reid. And in the debate, she did exactly that. In effect, Angle does not have so much strive to win as she does have to just let Reid lose. In a state with 14.4% unemployment and Nevada being the epicenter of the housing crisis, all the spending pushed through the Senate under Reid's leadership and all the pork he directs into the state, it is all falling on deaf ears. The mere fact that Angle has stayed close and moved ahead in the polls despite all that union money supporting Reid is evidence of Reid's unpopularity in the state.
In the Congressional races, Shelly Berkley should retain the 1st District for the Democrats. This district includes Las Vegas, awash in SEIU money, and has been heavily Democratic since she won the seat after John Ensign moved into the Senate. This is also the district that gave us Harry Reid in the first place. Demographics definitely favor the Democratic Party with its urban make-up and heavy minority population. Meanwhile over in the large 2nd District which is basically the entire state except the southeastern corner, Republican Dean Heller is the overwhelming favorite to win. That leaves Dana Titus, the incumbent Democrat, in the 3rd District which includes Henderson and the growing Las Vegas suburbs. Elected in 2008, she rode the Democratic wave with Obama at the top of the ticket. This area is rather evenly split with the more liberal elements moving out of the immediate Las Vegas metropolitan area into the district and the more conservative population infiltrating from the Second District. In short, Titus faces a tough challenge from former State Senator Joe Heck. Judging from the polls seen thus far, it would appear that Titus may just hold on to this seat, although the difference is clearly within the margin of error (she leads by an average of less than one point making for a very close race indeed.) But, I caution it is minimal polling data and I venture that in the end, Titus will be sent packing.
However, three important factors will boslter Heck's chances in the Third District. First, the economy is a train wreck in Nevada and Titus is guilty by association. Second, the Tea Party Express will be rolling through Nevada and this should bolster Heck's chances despite being outfunded 4-1 by the Titus campaign. Third, I cannot undderestimate or ignore the possibility of top-down voting behavior on Election Day. Coupled with the anticipated votes for Sandoval and Angle, some of those votes should translate into additional votes for Heck. The Third will also be the battleground in the Senate race and the possibility of some positive advertisement by Angle in the District should be explored. The 15.6% Hispanic population is not that great that it will make a huge difference in the voting. Regardless, one would expect that some of that vote will go to Sandoval and filter down the ballot through Angle to Heck. Hence, despite polls showing Titus holding this seat, I believe that Heck will win in a very close race on Election Day.
Like so many other states where the Democratic Party misinterpreted previous results, Nevada is still basically one of those Republican mountain states, like Colorado. There have been flirtations with the Democratic Party of late, but when push comes to shove, this state is not blue. With Sandoval leading the way, it is hard to see Reid winning this Senate race. The reasons are many: (1) he is an unpopular incumbent, (2) despite a heavy cash advantage, he cannot shake Angle, (3) general anti-incumbent sentiment, and (4) Nevada's crappy economic environment makes the atmosphere not conducive to an incumbent Democrat. Throw in a Heck victory in the Third District and one has the making for a Democratic meltdown in Nevada. And the best part about this is that Harry Reid will be sent packing (along with his son) delivering a big psychological blow to the Dems. Let the fight for his leadership position in the Senate begin.....