Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2021

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast

Cook Political Report tilts three Senate races toward Republicans, including in Nevada

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto Tours the LVCC West Hall

Yasmina Chavez

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV, speaks to the media following a tour the Las Vegas Convention Center West Hall, Monday, May 3, 2021.

Nevada’s precarious U.S. Senate race has shifted closer to the GOP side, a nonpartisan political newsletter that analyzes elections and campaigns determined on Friday.

The Cook Political Report shifted Nevada’s Senate race from “Lean Democrat” to the “Toss Up” column along with two other states in which Republicans have a chance of gaining control.

The lean toward the Republican side can be attributed to President Joe Biden’s sagging approval numbers, which have been dropping since his handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, the report says.

Nevada joins Arizona and Georgia as tossups, according to the report. They are all states that Biden carried by 2.5 points or less in 2020, and they could get swept by the GOP, even if the quality of the Republican candidate is subpar, the report noted.

Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Republican Joe Heck in 2016 by about 2.4 points, winning the seat vacated by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement.

“Nevada may be slightly better for Democrats on paper than Georgia or Arizona, given that Trump lost the state by about 2.4 points in 2016 and 2020, but it’s a state that has often vexed their party in midterm races,” the report states.

Republicans have made gains with the large non-college population and blue-collar voters in Nevada, the report says. They hope to gain voters in the suburbs around Las Vegas and Reno, as well as build on Donald Trump’s gains in 2020 with Hispanic voters, according to the report.

Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who has Trump’s endorsement, is vying against U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Sam Brown for the GOP nomination. Brown has the financial backing of Don Ahern, hotel mogul and Trump campaign megadonor, as well as John Geist, who donated $11,600 to his campaign Sept. 27. Former beauty pageant winner Sharelle Mendenhall as well as Pahrump resident Bill Hockstedler also hope to chip away those Republican votes for themselves.

A key for both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate race will be the non-major party voters, who outnumber Republicans and Democrats. According to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office, as of October, 649,139 voters in Nevada registered with a non-major party — with most of those being nonpartisan voters — out of a total of 1,822,157.

By comparison, the state had 624,501 registered Democrats and 548,517 registered Republicans.

“The momentum behind our grassroots campaign is unmistakable. We’re going to flip the Senate and protect Nevada from the radical left,” Laxalt wrote in a Friday Twitter post after the report was released. His campaign didn’t return a request for comment.

Nevada Democratic Victory spokesperson Andy Orellana wrote in an email that Nevadans know they can trust Cortez Masto to make a difference for them and their families.

“Just this week, she delivered a historic new infrastructure law that will create thousands of jobs across the state while combating drought in the South and wildfires up North,” he said. “Meanwhile, Adam Laxalt continues to be plagued by corruption scandals and his campaign remains singularly focused on Trump.”

A total of 34 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats will be contested in the midterm election, with the Republicans defending 20 spots and the Democrats 14.