July 8, 2015 — Nevada Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), after a long consideration period, announced his intention this week to seek the Republican nomination for U. S. Senate. Heck will run for the seat being vacated by retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who, of course, served prominently as Majority Leader during the 2007-2015 period.
Rep. Heck had always been high on the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s candidate recruitment list, right after Gov. Brian Sandoval (R). After long denying he had an interest in running for the federal post, Gov. Sandoval last month publicly removed himself from consideration, thus opening the way for Heck.
It further appears that the Nevada general election is now set. Both Heck and former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) appear to be consensus candidates for their respective parties and both potential Democratic and Republican politicians are now looking more intently at Heck’s open congressional seat rather than the statewide campaign.
Nevada is a state that is trending Democratic in presidential years, but Republicans scored a stunning sweep of almost every competitive contest in the 2014 mid-term election. The turnout was extremely low last November, meaning Republicans will be challenged to exceed expectations when voter participation it as its highest. On the other hand, Democrats must find a way to motivate their wayward constituents who weren’t moved enough to cast a ballot in the non-presidential election.
President Obama’s Nevada numbers were 55 percent in 2008 and 52 percent for his re-election effort. Masto won two statewide races for attorney general, one in 2006 and the other in 2010. She first won with 59 percent of the vote, but her re-elect dropped to 53 percent. Heck unseated then-3rd District incumbent Dina Titus (D) by less than a full percentage point in 2010, and later won a 50-43 percent re-election even though Obama was simultaneously carrying the state. Rep. Heck went onto claim a solid 61-36 percent victory last November. Therefore, while the congressman’s support level keeps growing, Masto’s contracted.
What will be a very tight and pivotal statewide contest, one that could conceivably dictate the next Senate majority, is now officially underway.
Florida-based Gravis Marketing released what can honestly be described as a shocking Sunshine State Democratic primary US Senate poll. According to their data (June 16-20; 818 Florida Democratic primary voters), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) has opened up a commanding 63-19 percent lead over fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18).
While Murphy is the party endorsed and favored Democratic candidate, Gravis is producing polling results portending the exact opposite conclusion. The pollsters claim that they are consciously drilling down into what has previously been a small Democratic primary turnout in order to properly reflect the candidate preferences of those most likely to cast ballots. As they point out in the analysis, only 17.7 percent of Democratic voters participated in the 2016 primary election.
The presidential election will not provide primary turnout impetus for either side. Florida will holds its stand-alone presidential nomination vote on March 15, 2016, while the primary for all other offices is currently targeted for Aug. 30.
Another point of reference supporting the Gravis survey’s reliability argument is their presidential result. In asking national candidate preference, 64.8 percent chose Hillary Clinton versus 20.6 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), New York Mayor Bill deBlasio, ex-Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Rhode Island ex-senator and governor, Lincoln Chafee, all received between 2.1 and 0.4 percent.
While Clinton’s lead is a bit larger here than elsewhere at the current time, the Sanders’ number and order of finish are certainly consistent with other similar surveys. Therefore, there doesn’t appear to be any glaring flaw in the polling methodology.
This survey data once again underscores the unpredictability of the Florida contest. Therefore, it may be premature to project a coronation of Murphy as the Democratic senatorial nominee.