With the arrival of the midterm election year, Republicans are focused on making the net gain of one Senate seat this November that will give them a majority (51) in the now evenly-split Senate.
Along with football great Herschel Walker taking out Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia and the eventual Republican nominee in Arizona unseating Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, the hopes of Republicans for “the magic 51” are pinned on the challenge of Republican Adam Laxalt against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.
In recent weeks, a just-completed Trafalgar Poll showed Laxalt — former state attorney general and GOP nominee for governor in a close 2018 race — actually leading incumbent Cortez Masto by 44 to 40 percent among likely voters statewide.
Two months earlier, a Mellman Poll among Nevada voters showed Cortez Masto leading Laxalt by an unimpressive 45.5 to 41.2 percent.
“Now there is no poll showing her in the lead,” Laxalt told The Daily Elephant, “This is a sign of voters clearly rejecting what is going on now.”
By “what is going on now,” the grandson of the late Nevada Sen. and Gov. Paul Laxalt means “the breakdown in law and order, the crisis of the border, the inflation that is kicking up our state’s electricity and gas prices.”
Laxalt, 43, spelled out precisely where he differs from the liberal Democratic incumbent and how he will run after his almost-sure nomination in the June primary.
“She supports open borders, which is leading to more human trafficking and the spread of drugs in the U.S.,” he told us, “Her stand is unforgivable and dangerous. I want secure borders. She never offered any condemnation of the BLM [Black Lives Matter] riots which left [Las Vegas police officer] Shay Mikalonis paralyzed from the waste down. I will always stand by the men and women who protect us.”
Laxalt added that he would vote against President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) bill and would have voted against his infrastructure bill — both of which Cortez Masto supports.
Although Laxalt has two primary opponents, his nomination is considered almost certain. Already weighing in for him are former President Donald Trump (whose 2020 re-election bid Laxalt chaired in Nevada) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Laxalt’s friend from their time in the U.S. Navy).
Democrats have won most of the major statewide contests in the last several election cycles but all of them have been in close contests. Trump narrowly lost the Silver State’s electoral votes in 2016 (47.92 percent for Hillary Clinton to 45.5.percent for Trump), as Cortez Masto was eking out a tight (47.1 to 44.7 percent) win in the Senate race over GOP Rep. Joe Heck.
In 2018, as Democrat Steve Sisolak was winning a tight race (49.4 to 45.3 percent) for the governorship against Laxalt, Democrat Jacky Rosen was unseating Republican Sen. Dean Heller by 50.4 to 45.4 percent).
Most recently, Joe Biden beat Trump in Nevada by a slim 50.6 to 47.7 percent.
But the combination of issues such as law and order and inflation now appear to have swung the slight edge for Democrats to the Republicans. Moreover, as pollster Mark Mellman concluded about his own findings on Nevada, ” the effects of COVID-19 [are] contributing to a hostile election environment for incumbents.”
All of this points to a strong position — at least now — for Adam Laxalt, who has so far raised $1.4 million in the last reporting period. Although the election is 11 months away and circumstances may change, one thing is inarguable: that the Nevada Senate race is sure to be watched and reported nationally as a sign of which way the U.S. Senate will go.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for The Daily Elephant. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.