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August 1, 2015

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Damon Political Report

Dean Heller’s message to conservative candidates: look somewhere else, the Senate seat is mine

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Dean Heller

Timing is everything when a potential candidate for major office drops a poll showing what most in the political world already know: that all things being equal at this moment he’s a shoe-in for the office.

Indeed, that’s what the internal polling memo released by U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., showed this morning.

It’s not news that Heller leads the field in the race shaping up against embattled U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. Ensign has been dawdling along, appearing on the surface as if he is intent on seeking re-election. His fundraising, on the other hand, is happening at a pace more fit for funding his legal battles than a tough re-election race and last time I asked him, he hadn’t done any of his own polling.

So, why does Heller tell the world what it already knows?

Most obviously, it’s a signal to opponents both Republican and Democrat that he’s serious about the race. Everyone is waiting on Heller to decide.

And while the focus has been on U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, on the Democratic side, the poll is more geared toward a potential primary field.

The memo stresses that Heller all but has the conservative vote wrapped up:

"Heller strongly dominates this ballot test among all of the most conservative elements of the primary electorate, capturing 62% of the vote and leading Ensign by a two to one margin among 'extremely conservative' voters. Heller also captures over 50% of the vote and holds double digit advantages over Senator Ensign among Tea Party supporters, pro-life Republicans, Second Amendment Republicans, and habitual Fox/talk radio Republicans."

Message to Sharron Angle: consider running for Congress instead.

While this memo doesn’t appear to be targeting potential Democrats as much as Republicans (I’m sure Heller would much rather face off against Berkley than some others on the Democratic bench), some interesting things are happening in that field.

Berkley likely won’t make a decision until summer, but appears steadfast in her intent to run. She’s touting her $1 million in the bank and telling potential backers not to expect a primary on her end.

But that might be little more than wishful thinking on Berkley’s end. Powerful interests in the Democratic Party aren’t convinced that Berkley can win statewide and are working to convince others to get in the race.

Las Vegas financier Byron Georgiou and Treasurer Kate Marshall have already been mentioned by my colleague Jon Ralston.

But an early establishment favorite at this point appears to be Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

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