Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2015

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Dean Heller’s message: Senate seat is mine to lose

Heller

Heller

John Ensign

John Ensign

When a potential candidate for major office drops a poll showing what most in the political world already know — that at this moment he’s a shoo-in — it’s more about the timing of the message than the content.

Such was the case with an internal polling memo released by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Tuesday morning. It showed him dominating the Republican field in the 2012 U.S. Senate race.

It’s not news that Heller leads in the developing race against Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. The embattled incumbent has been going through the motions of seeking re-election, but his fundraising pace seems more fit for financing legal battles than a tough re-election bid. The last time the Sun spoke to him, he hadn’t done any polling.

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

It’s a none-too-subtle signal to opponents, Republican and Democrat, that he’s serious about entering the race.

The focus on the Democratic side has been on Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., but Heller’s poll is geared toward a primary field. It stresses that he 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 percent of the vote and leading Ensign by a 2-to-1 margin among ‘extremely conservative’ voters. Heller also captures more than 50 percent of the vote and holds double-digit advantages over Sen. Ensign among Tea Party supporters, pro-life Republicans, Second Amendment Republicans, and habitual Fox/talk radio Republicans.”

Message to Sharron Angle: The House of Representatives isn’t so bad.

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

But that might be wishful thinking: Powerful interests in the Democratic Party aren’t convinced she can win a statewide race and are trying to persuade others to get in the race.

Las Vegas financier Byron Georgiou and state Treasurer Kate Marshall have been mentioned by Sun columnist Jon Ralston. An early establishment favorite at this point appears to be Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

We can likely expect other “internal” polls signaling hard intentions on that side.

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