Nevada Senate: The Race is On

By Jim Ellis

June 29, 2017
— Last week, freshman Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) informally declared her intention to run for the Senate – promising an actual announcement for sometime this week or next – and now we already see the first poll for the impending race.

First-term Sen. Dean Heller is clearly the Republicans most vulnerable incumbent in an election year where Democratic opportunities are few and far between. In this particular cycle, Democrats must defend 25 of the 33 Senate campaigns to come before their respective voters versus the Republicans’ mere eight; and, realistically, only two of the latter group are in the competitive realm.

Republican in-cycle Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), John Barrasso (WY), Deb Fischer (NE), Bob Corker (TN), Ted Cruz (TX), and Roger Wicker (MS) all come from secure Republican states, and none are in serious danger for re-election. Sen. Jeff Flake finds himself in an iffy Arizona situation, but he has time to right his political ship. Therefore, the Nevada seat becomes possibly the Democrats’ lone conversion focal point for the coming election.

Considering this background, Public Policy Polling tested the Nevada electorate for the Planned Parenthood organization (June 23-25; 648 registered Nevada voters) and, not surprisingly, found a virtual dead heat developing between the two contenders. According to their data, Rep. Rosen would cling to a one-point, 42-41 percent lead, over Sen. Heller.

The results assume that the ballot test was, in fact, asked before the biased push questions that were also part of the polling survey. The latter queries were included in an obvious attempt to sway the respondents to Rosen’s side of the equation.

For example, PPP asked the respondents the following question:

Trumpcare – The Republican healthcare bill – throws millions of women off their health insurance plans, blocks women from accessing birth control and cancer screening at Planned Parenthood, would allow insurance companies to charge women more than $1,000 more per month for maternity coverage, and allows women to be charged more for insurance because they had a baby. If Sen. Heller voted for this bill, would you be less likely or more likely to support him in the next election, or would it not make a difference?

Clearly we understand the goal of a push question – and, there are more in this particular poll – is to favorably influence the respondents toward one particular candidate. Should, however, this type and other similar questions be asked before the ballot test, one could see how the results would become skewed. PPP reports their push question results after the ballot test, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this is the order in which the questions were asked.

Considering how biased the aforementioned question is, even leading the respondent to the point that “less likely” is listed as the first response and with no mention or counterbalance about the healthcare bill’s positives, it’s a bit surprising that the “less likely” response only reached 50 percent. The “more likely” option, even under that question’s verbiage, tallied 28 percent. An additional 18 percent said the healthcare bill made no difference.

Therefore, if Rosen’s one-point slight ballot test advantage came after the push questions, then that would say a great deal about Sen. Heller’s strength and completely move this poll into a different context. It is likely, however, that the questions were asked in the order presented on the report, meaning ballot test before push questions, which is usually when pollsters present the abrasive inquiries.

In the end, this first poll tells us a race between Sen. Heller and Rep. Rosen would be close. Based upon recent Nevada voting history and the state’s political complexion, it would frankly be surprising to see any other result.

It is certain that the Nevada Senate race will be a drawn out and difficult campaign, and a sure bet to remain as one of the top campaigns throughout the entire election cycle.

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