By Jim EllisAug. 2, 2018 — A new Suffolk University survey (July 24-29; 500 likely Nevada voters) returns numbers that again show Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) falling within the margin of polling error with neither candidate attracting majority support.
According to Suffolk, Sen. Heller leads Rep. Rosen by a bare 41-40 percent margin, meaning the two are virtually tied. This is the first poll since mid-April that projects the senator to any kind of an advantage, but even the four surveys in between, all of which favored Rep. Rosen, showed margin spreads in the realm of two to six points. Of the eight polls publicized for this race during the entire election cycle, in only one, the April Survey Monkey study, did either candidate ever reach the 50 percent mark (Rosen, 50-44 percent; Survey Monkey; April 2-23; 1,332 Nevada registered voters in the Survey Monkey pool).
Suffolk also tested the state’s open governor’s race, and found an equally tight contest. Here, Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt posts a 42-41 percent tally over Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. In the one previously released post-primary general election poll, from Gravis Marketing (June 23-26; 630 likely Nevada general election voters), an almost identical result was projected: Laxalt leading 43-41 percent.
The Nevada Senate race is one of the most important in the nation this year, and one of two main Democratic conversion targets (the open race in Arizona is the other). Winning this race is the only gateway to the Democrats potentially gaining the Senate majority, thus we can expect to see major political action in this state for the remaining prime campaign months.
Back in 2012, Sen. Heller won a very tight 46-45 percent victory as the appointed incumbent over then-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas). Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) chose then-Rep. Heller to replace resigned-Sen. John Ensign (R) in May of 2011. Though the senator’s victory margin was small, it is important to remember that he won the race even though President Obama led the Nevada ticket with a 52-46 percent spread over Republican Mitt Romney.
Though Nevada is usually regarded as a lean Democrat state, it was only four years ago, in the last midterm election, when Gov. Sandoval led a Republican sweep in the 2014 election that saw the GOP winning the entire statewide ticket, taking three of four congressional seats, and claiming both houses of the state legislature.
Democrats came back in 2016 when they won the presidential contest (Hillary Clinton topping Donald Trump, 48-46 percent), took the open Democratic Senate race, and re-claimed two of the House seats they lost in ’14, as well as both state legislative chambers. Therefore, Nevada’s swing political nature suggests that virtually anything could result in the impending election.
The money count is high on both sides and is no object for either candidate. Rep. Rosen, including transfers from her House campaign account, raised $9.4 million through June 30 and has $3.8 million in the bank after spending more than $5 million during the cycle. Sen. Heller has obtained $10.9 million, spent $5.3 million, and has $5.9 million cash-on-hand. None of these figures include what should be millions of dollars in outside spending on behalf of both candidates.
It is obvious that the Nevada Senate campaign rates as a pure toss-up, as does the open governor’s race.