Heller, Rosen and the language

A meeting of the Nevada Republican Men’s Club in Las Vegas, normally open, was closed to reporters on April 3 when Republican U.S. senate candidate Dean Heller spoke. It turns out there were good reasons.

The next day, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported Heller told the attendees (1) that he is counting on low turnout of Democrats to win reelection, and (2) if the GOP picks up seats, it will be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The disclosure of Heller’s comments came after the RJ obtained a recording of the meeting.

“We now have less than 60,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans,” Heller said. “Let me be more clear. If we can get that number below 50,000, I can’t lose. … [T]he tendency of Republicans to vote [in midterms] is higher than the other party.”

Heller did not actually say he would vote to repeal the ACA, only that his party could accomplish it with the right combination of wins: “If we have 51 Republicans that will vote to repeal and replace, it will happen.” He did not say he would be one of them. He also seemed to fault other GOP senators who—like himself—had voted to save the ACA.

“We need 51 votes,” he said. “And right now we know there’s three votes we’re missing for that 51—John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.”

Heller’s troubles with the ACA seem to stem from his own efforts over the months to navigate a politically safe path, adjusting on different sections of the ACA, instead of taking a clearly marked position on whether he supports a national health care program at all, leaving himself open to the charge he does not.

In this latest dispute, one website—ShareBlue Media—seemed to take pleasure in his policy writhings: “GOP Sen. Dean Heller vows to run on most unpopular platform he can. … Health care is the number one issue for voters in 2018, so Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is promising to destroy it if they re-elect him.”

Heller’s likely opponent, Democrat Jacky Rosen, has been similarly preoccupied with those Senate numbers and what it will take to make a majority. She has also been just as careful with verbiage. Many of her daily or multi-daily fundraising mailings contain sentences that seem to suggest that the chances of a Democratic majority depend on Nevada. They don’t come right out and say so, but they tilt that way:

“Friend – CRITICAL updates in the race that will determine control of the Senate in 2018.”

“Everyone from Nate Silver to the Washington Post says our best path to a Senate majority runs straight through Nevada.”

“The New York Times says Nevada’s Senate race will decide the majority, so the future of the Supreme Court hinges on what we do here.”

This verbiage conveys a sense of urgency to the need for dollars. Of course, if a majority depends on winning one seat, then any state’s Senate race—not just Nevada—would be crucial. But things are not that way, as the Nation Magazine notes:

“Democrats can take charge of the Senate if they reelect progressive incumbents like Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and pick up two more seats. Congresswoman Jacky Rosen is narrowly ahead of the most vulnerable GOP senator, Nevada’s Dean Heller. But where does the second seat come from?”