Campaign ends with clear messages
If there is doubt in other states about the public’s feelings toward Donald Trump—and that’s unlikely now—there is none in Nevada. A state that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago reemphasized that stance again by giving every statewide office but one and both houses of the Nevada Legislature to the Democratic Party—and the Nevada Assembly to women.
Republicans running for U.S. Senate and governor were given their walking papers.
Even Republican incumbent Mark Amodei, running from a supposedly safe Republican U.S. House district in northern Nevada, was pressed hard by unknown Clint Koble, who came within 2.2 percent of beating Amodei.
Washoe County, the home of moderate Republicanism, did little to stand in the way of the Democrats.
Candidates who tried to emulate Trump’s “success” received forceful reminders that the public voted against him, and there are no presidential electors in county commission and state legislative races to bail out losers.
The closeness of the U.S. Senate race all summer meant that many elsewhere were watching Nevada. It led to some bad information on the state.
There was the usual local chauvinism in news. While the Las Vegas office of Associated Press reported “Nevada could be the Democrats’ best chance of taking the majority in the U.S. Senate,” CNN carried a report titled “Democrats’ Senate hopes may hang on Missouri,” Reuters found that “Control of U.S. Senate may hinge on possible Mississippi runoff,” and WTVJ News in Miami reported, “Floridians could help determine control of the U.S. Senate.”
One piece with the arresting title “How to Win Nevada” ran on Politico, but its premises were dubious. At one point, the author, Arizona reporter Dan Hernandez, wrote, “The Democrats’ sweeping  victory in Nevada proved to be an outlier nationally.” He didn’t explain what he meant by that, but the context was his discussion of Hillary Clinton’s Nevada win. Clinton beat Trump in Nevada by 2.4 percent—and nationally by 2.1 percent, so Nevada hardly seems like an outlying state. It was right in the mainstream. Hernandez also wrote, “And it takes more than a strong performance in Las Vegas for a Democrat to win Nevada” just after he explained how Catherine Cortez Masto was elected to the Senate while losing 16 out of 17 jurisdictions. Harry Reid, in showing this reporter some housing start figures on Clark County, once said “And people wonder how I won by carrying one county.”
Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jacky Rosen managed to stay even and even pass Heller in raising money. On Oct. 27, Rosen sent out fundraising email messages to her mailing list at 4:44 a.m., 5:58 a.m., 7:20 a.m., 8:08 a.m., 8:42 a.m., 10:04 a.m., 11:17 a.m., 11:46 a.m., 1:54 p.m., 3:19 p.m., 4:42 p.m., 6:03 p.m. and 7:21 p.m. That was a fairly typical day. (At 4:39 a.m. on election day, she sent out a message reading in part, “Can I count on you to pitch in just $1 one last time?”)
But what was less certain was whether the independent committees supporting Rosen could compete with the independent committees supporting Heller.
The New York Times took one poll in Nevada this year that it posted while it was being taken, from Oct. 8 to Oct. 10. Over the three days of the survey, results were posted as they were received, so readers could actually see the fluctuations in the race on a flow chart hour by hour. Every time a voter was added to the sample, the result was posted. The race was so close that four times—twice on Oct. 8, twice on Oct. 9—the survey drifted briefly into Rosen majorities on the chart, then back to Heller again. It ended at 47 percent Heller, 45 Rosen, 7 undecided. It was that close.
For Rosen’s campaign and Democrats generally, it was a jolt when that Times survey showed Rosen with just a one point lead among women. Almost as bad, she had only 52 percent among Latinos, a group that has bailed out other Democrats in the past.
Then, toward the end, Heller started opening up a lead, one survey showing him seven points ahead.
Then on Nov. 5—the day before election—Rosen suddenly jumped out to a four point lead over Heller. After she nursed a tie all summer long, was this a polling anomaly or did this many people really wait until the end to make up their minds?
If there was a single figure in this election who was a surrogate for Trump, it was probably Dean Heller. In October 2016, Heller said he was “99 percent against” Trump, and during Trump’s administration, Heller initially voted against him on the Affordable Care Act. On July 19, 2017, Trump publicly threatened Heller if he didn’t fall in line. Heller apparently took the threat seriously, and soon he was voting as Trump wanted. Trump campaigned for Heller this year, though late in the campaign there were reports that the senator asked Trump to stop coming to Nevada.
What does it mean?
Democrats have a habit of winning big victories and then starting to lose them two years later. In 1992 and 2008, the Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, and in both cases that primacy lasted for only two years.
If members of either party are reading the 2018 results as satisfaction with the political status quo, that was not the reaction we got in speaking with Nevadans after they voted during early voting. Both Republicans and Democrats seemed to be saying they are tired of a political party system.
One Washoe Republican said he nearly didn’t vote at all because of what he called “today’s social conservatives … They’re the real RINOs” (Republicans in name only). He said he recalls the days when Ronald Reagan and Paul Laxalt were adjacent governors and both raised taxes, as Reagan did repeatedly as president.
“That’s what a good fiscal conservative does to keep the books in balance,” he said.
He also said today Paul Laxalt and Reagan could probably not survive a GOP primary because of “social conservative purists.”
Democrats were similarly exasperated with their party, some saying that 2018 is a last chance to make the party work.
“I’m ready to start circulating petitions to get the Greens on the ballot,” said one.
The Green Party was on the Nevada ballot from 1996 to 2008.
“The Democrats didn’t repeal school choice last year after promising to,” she said. “They just defunded it. That’s not the same thing. It’s still out there waiting, like a snake. … The Democrats need to stop pussy-footing on their own policies.”
One voter told us the Democrats cannot continue “campaigning left and governing right.”