Kate Marshall, canary in the coal mine

I typically refrain from making election night predictions. Well, that is, unless I’ve been drinking, and it’s election night. Then I can safely make the assumption that a drink or three is at least on the horizon. Nonetheless, my election night predictions—when I make them—are pretty spot on, minus a few notable exceptions. For example, I was totally wrong on the 2010 Senate race. I bet an influential Republican operative a bottle of top shelf hooch that She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would fall to Reid by 7,500 votes.

I totally flubbed that one. She actually lost by a mind-blowing 40,000 votes. I have yet to make good on that bet, for I still maintain that I was half right. Reid’s victory was sadly never a doubt in my mind, but I never imagined that She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would lose to Reid by such a large margin. In retrospect, it wasn’t a huge surprise. Reid’s “too extreme” ad campaign was devastating to the world’s most well-known serial candidate, and the ground machine Reid dispatched was truly a thing to behold. Add in the fact that moderate Nevada voters never really liked She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and Reid had his recipe for reelection.

The metrics surrounding Kate Marshall’s crushing loss to Mark Amodei in the special election to replace Dean Heller who was appointed to finish out John Ensign’s Senate term are a bit more complicated, and a bit more ominous. For starters, Marshall did not lose because Amodei was some sort of super-candidate. Amodei is affable, well versed, well funded and disciplined on the campaign trail, but so is Marshall. There was no major issue affecting this race like disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner’s—ahem—self portraits in NY-09, an irritating third party spoiler like Doug Hoffman in NY-23 or a major campaign issue like Medicare, which sunk Republican Jane Corwin in NY-26.

Democrats are quick to tell you that as the district currently sits, the Republicans hold a 30,000 registered voter advantage, and they didn’t view the district as overly winnable anyway. While this may be true, it’s important to note that Washoe County, where Marshall lost by 10 points, is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. In 2006, Democrat Jill Derby bested Dean Heller by 4,000 votes here in Washoe.

This is what is so important about Marshall’s loss here in Washoe County. Washoe was crucial to Obama’s election in 2008 and Reid’s reelection in 2010. Mark Amodei carried it in a landslide this month. Washoe County is a quintessential swing county in a swing state that has awarded its electoral votes to the winner of every presidential race but one since 1912. I have mentioned before that Nevada is the center of the Democrats’ political universe, and if Obama’s poll numbers continue to stay in the doldrums, then our electoral votes, not just our open Congressional and Senate seats, will become incredibly important to the Obama/Biden campaign.

Prior to Amodei’s 20-point win, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that the Obama campaign had all but forgotten about Nevada and Washoe County, focusing instead on other more competitive districts. Today, that isn’t the case. Nevada is a bellwether state, and the Democrats must be tremendously worried about this. Marshall is a conservative Democrat, she ran against many of the policies dearly loved by the Democrat base, and thus she got hammered at the polls.

Kate Marshall may very well be the canary in the coal mine for the Democrats. I highly doubt that anybody over on team blue ever realistically thought they could actually win this special election, but nobody thought it would be this bad. 2012 is going to be a rough one for the Democrats, and the implosion of Kate Marshall for Congress is just the beginning.