Nevada is the only state in the midterm elections with an incumbent Republican U.S. Senator whose voters picked Hillary Clinton in 2016. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, who has never lost an election, “is perhaps the nation’s most vulnerable Senator,” national pollster Scott Rasmussen says.
Depending on the poll, Heller and his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, are either tied or she is up by a razor-thin 2 percentage points. Across all polling companies, the race is considered a “toss up.”
The University of Virginia Center for Politics, which produces Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and the polling firm, Ipsos, rate this race as one of six toss-up Senate races.
But social media companies producing a real-time pulse on the state indicate a Republican-leaning outcome. Heller, whose campaign mantra is, “What does this mean for Nevada?” has been touting his commitment to federal tax reform, an issue his opponent voted against in Congress.
Taxes, and raising or lowering them, could push one candidate ahead, political analysts note. According to GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, The Hill reports, “voters in the state tend to be supportive of limited taxes and government. ‘Taxes and regulations are a no-no in the state of Nevada,’ O’Connell said. ‘It’s a very frontier mentality.’”
Rosen, a House Democrat who voted against the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), is challenging the only Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee running for re-election this year. While working on the bill last fall, Heller argues that he helped increase the size of the child tax credit.
In June, President Donald Trump came to Nevada to participate in a roundtable on taxes with Heller, saying that Heller “worked so hard with us to get the taxes cut.”
In mid-August, Heller released an ad in which he argued that Nevada’s economy is greatly improving and that Rosen wants “higher taxes, job-killing regulations.”
“I like where we’re headed. Jacky Rosen doesn’t,” Heller said.
In response, Rosen said in a campaign ad, “There’s a difference between Dean Heller and me on taxes. I support fiscally responsible middle-class tax cuts. Dean Heller voted for the new tax law that gives almost all the benefits to the richest 1 percent and big corporations.”
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) says this isn’t the case. ATR’s John Kartch argues that because of the TCJA, “90 percent of wage earners have higher take-home pay. And companies of all sizes are already giving bonuses and raises and expanding the scope of their operations.”
ATR compiled a list of Nevada businesses that have given raises or bonuses to employees, that have been able to invest in purchasing or upgrading new equipment, and that have pledged to hire tens of thousands of employees because of the TCJA. Utility companies announced reduced rates, large chains announced extended benefit plans and investment in education programs, and small businesses announced their ability to hire new employees, ATR notes.
A longtime Nevada politician, Heller was first appointed to his seat in 2011. In 2012, he defeated his Democrat opponent, Shelley Berkley, by one point. Prior to becoming a U.S. Senator, Heller represented the 2nd Congressional district and was also Nevada’s secretary of state.
Rosen, a first-term congresswoman elected in 2016, is a former synagogue leader, and a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. One of the key hurdles Rosen faces, the New York Times says, is name recognition. She doesn’t have much time left to keep introducing herself, the Times notes.
About 86 percent of votes cast in Nevada are from the Las Vegas and Reno/Sparks metro areas; 75 percent of votes cast are from Clark County (Las Vegas), state records indicate. These counties are also among the fastest growing urban areas in the U.S.
According to campaign reports, Heller has outraised Rosen with $10.6 million in campaign contributions compared to her $9.2 million. Outside groups have contributed $17 million to the race, with about $10 million donated to support Rosen and oppose Heller, the Center for Responsive Politics reports.