The title bout here in the Silver State is going to be the slugfest between Senator Dean Heller, R-NV and Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, D-NV. It’s looking to be a doozy, but I don’t imagine this will be as absurd as the race between Harry Reid and She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from 2010. (Massages for prison inmates, anyone?)
The polling numbers on this race are tight as a drum, most showing Heller ahead by a scant one or two points. This is within the margin of error and based on this it is looking more and more certain that barring some sort of major gaffe, or an October surprise, neither Heller nor Berkley will be able to pull away from the other. Effectively, this race will not be a landslide like the Reid race of 2010.
If you listen to the Democrats, Obama’s relative popularity here in Nevada, coupled with the belief that the impressive ground network built by Organizing for America in 2008 and Harry Reid for Senate in 2010 is still in place, and because of this they will be able to outwork and outmaneuver both Romney and Heller to capture Heller’s senate seat and Nevada’s six electoral votes. They are also hoping that this network will unseat Congressman Joe Heck R-NV, deliver a win for congressional candidate Steven Horsford and retain and gain a bevy of State Senate and Assembly seats.
I do have to wonder whether or not this organization has limits and whether the huge number of targeted seats will spread their resources too thin. This isn’t 2008, and barring a call for legalizing marijuana from the president himself, I don’t see Obama’s biggest group of 2008 volunteers, young ideological first-time voters, turning out in droves to knock on the thousands of doors and make the thousands of calls needed to emerge victorious in all these races.
Another factor the Democrats are relentlessly pushing is the sad state of the Nevada Republican Party. It is true that since the Ron Paulites have taken over the party, their influence will be greatly diminished, but the folks over at Romney for President and the RNC are accounting for this by beefing up the power and influence wielded here by the Republican victory operation, named Team Nevada. In the last few years, since the stinging U.S. Senate loss in 2010, the Republicans have learned a thing or three about how to build an organization that can fully function without the help of the state party operations, if necessary.
It is also important to point out that unlike She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named who was a bumbling, fumbling boob who refused to listen to anyone other than her sycophants, Senator Heller is an effective campaigner and a highly accomplished politician who has a large team of advisors here in Nevada, who not only know the ins and outs of Nevada politics, they are the ones who have defined the conversation here for many years on the Republican side.
Washoe County is where things will get interesting. Senator Heller will stomp Berkley in the rural counties, while Berkley will handily win Clark County. This race will come down to us, and considering the number of close U.S. Senate races around the country, control of the Senate may hinge on how we vote here as well.
It is highly unlikely that either candidate will pull much support from the other’s political party, so the decision rests firmly on the shoulders of our Independent voters. Nevada’s Independent voters can be a strange lot, and never do they stick to a specific playbook. Although they tend to be fiercely anti-government on many issues, Nevada Independents are not Libertarians. Additionally, Independents do tend to do a fair amount of ticket splitting but if they start to sour on one candidate, the rest of the ticket gets punished. This is where Mitt Romney comes in. If Romney starts to go down like the Hindenburg here, Heller is the one who will feel the pain.
The real kicker in this race, however, is Berkley. In the coming weeks, the House Ethics Committee is going to decide whether to proceed with an ethics investigation into whether or not the Congresswoman used the power of her office to unfairly enrich her husband’s medical practice. If this investigation starts to gain some traction, then Berkley may very well be headed toward an unscheduled retirement, no matter how much her communications team insists that it’s no big deal.
Regardless of the investigation, expect a deluge of ads from Team Heller addressing this issue. Berkley’s husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner has been vocal in the past about his symbiotic relationship with his wife, even flippantly joking at a 2008 conference of renal physicians that one of the best ways to make a difference in Washington, D.C., is by “marrying an elected official.” Heller’s people know this, and trust me they will use it.
This race looks to be just as entertaining as the 2010 U.S. Senate race. Unlike that one, which was over the night She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named received the nomination, this one will be a nail biter and lucky (or unlucky) for us here in Washoe County, it’s going to come down to us.
For more information visit www.deanheller.com and www.shelleyberkley.com
Sean Cary is a local business owner, freelance writer, host of “Week in Review” heard on Fox News Radio 99.1 FM and pundit on the television show “Nevada Newsmakers.” Contact him at email@example.com and read his blog at www.seancary.com.