Marshall conceded the race in a telephone call to Amodei at about 9 p.m.
“The voters of Nevada have sent a message,” Amodei told a crowd of supporters during an election night party at the Eldorado Hotel Casino in Reno. “That message is unmistakable, and that is it’s time to start a change.”
For Republicans across the country, Tuesday night spelled great change. The GOP also won a House race in New York City, taking control of a seat formerly occupied by Democrat Anthony Weiner, who resigned amid admitted sexual improprieties in June.
But whether Republicans can continue the tide of conservative dominance in recent elections nationwide will depend in large part on the economy.
“If the economy stays lousy, it’s going to be a Republican sweep in 2012,” said state Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who represents Spanish Springs. “There’s definitely a conservative mood in the country.”
But the GOP encompasses a big tent these days, with moderates, Tea Party conservatives, religious conservatives and other factions fighting for control of the party.
Hansen acknowledged that this presents a possible liability.
Washoe County Commissioner Bonnie Weber, who is active in local Republican politics, cautioned conservatives about getting their hopes too high, particularly because the congressional district now represented by Amodei has always been a Republican stronghold, having never elected a Democrat.
“I don’t think we should count our eggs before they’re hatched,” she said. “We really have to be careful. We can’t take anything for granted.”
Weber described Amodei as an intelligent, charismatic leader who is right for Washington.
“I think he’s a great politician,” she said.
Hansen, a self-described far-right conservative, said he expects Amodei to legislate similarly to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, because they share common backgrounds, such as having ties to Carson City.
For David and Pam Reese, a lawyer and real estate agent in Reno, Amodei represents the kind of fiscal conservative they desire to see in Washington.
“I think he’s a down-to-earth, conservative Republican who will continue to have loyalty to local interests,” David said.
Republicans blamed Obama for Marshall’s loss, according to an Associated Press report, a claim that could come up frequently in advance of next year’s presidential election despite the district’s Republican leanings.
“Even in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, voters have turned on the president and his congressional allies,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Not only are the president’s policies not working, but his non-stop campaigning is no longer winning over voters.”
GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkankain announced at Amodei’s victory party that his win “is the first step in telling President Obama he’s done.”
Nevada’s worst-in-the-nation economy likely did little to help Marshall’s campaign. Angry voters steamed with politics in general might have also depressed turnout and further hurt her cause.
The candidates both sought to appeal to centrist voters, but their differences were stark. Amodei, a former state GOP chairman, pledged to support a balanced budget amendment in Congress and signed an anti-tax pledge, while Marshall, the state treasurer, was critical of Obama but still supportive of his federal health care overhaul.
Those ties to Washington Democrats, however limited or underplayed by her side, made Marshall a difficult sell in rural Nevada. The sprawling congressional district covers all of northern Nevada and a slice of Clark County near Las Vegas.
The special election was brief but heated. Marshall slammed Amodei for supporting tax increases as a state lawmaker and sought to portray him as a foe of Medicare in a series of TV attacks. Amodei, meanwhile, often linked Marshall to Obama and other Washington Democrats.
Also on the ballot were Tim Fasano, an Independent American Party candidate, and Helmuth Lehmann, an independent businessman who gathered signatures to get on the ballot.