Back in April, Ruy Teixeira warned that Democrats might be in trouble in Nevada. Specifically, there was some polling that showed Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who holds the seat previously held by Harry Reid, was trailing Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.
Suffolk University/USA TODAY Network Nevada poll
Race for U.S. Senate
Catherine Cortez Masto (D) 40%
Adam Laxalt (R) 43%
None of these candidates 3%
Catherine Cortez Masto (D) 39%
Sam Brown (R) 40%
None of these candidates 5%
— David Paleologos (@davidpaleologos) April 12, 2022
Polling for Masto has improved since then, as it has for a lot of Democrats, but NBC News has a story up today suggesting Masto may be the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate this year.
Cortez Masto may be the most endangered Democratic incumbent in this cycle, even though her party hasn’t lost a Senate race here in a decade. While Democrats still project confidence, polls show a dead heat despite massive spending by Cortez Masto and an early assault of negative ads designed to tarnish rival Adam Laxalt.
“This is definitely our best opportunity at any point in the last 14 years,” said Jeremy Hughes, a Republican consultant who has worked on many Nevada races.
Hughes cited GOP gains in voter registration, a trend of Hispanic voters drifting away from Democrats and rising prices of gas and food as the key forces propelling Republicans.
A recent AARP had Masto up by less than 4 points.
In the Senate race, Cortez Masto leads Republican nominee and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt by less than 4 points (44 percent to 40 percent) — within the poll’s margin of error. In the gubernatorial race, Sisolak holds a 3-point lead over Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo (41 percent to 38 percent).
Despite those slim leads, the poll revealed shrinking margins of support from Hispanic voters for both Cortez Masto and Sisolak, who both relied heavily on the state’s Democratic-leaning Latino voting bloc during their most recent electoral wins…
“We’re basically seeing, nationally, Latino voters moving away from Democrats,” [pollster Matt] Hogan said. “We saw it from 2018 to 2020, and we’ve seen it continue from 2020 to now … We’re seeing the trend here in Nevada.”…
[Pollster Tony] Fabrizio predicted that if the election were held today, Sisolak and Cortez Masto would both lose — owing to their underwater favorability, a Republican lean among undecided voters, and unfavorable national conditions including persistent inflation and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity.
Of course surprises do happen and maybe for once polling will turn out to underestimate Democrats instead of Republicans. But there seems to be some consensus on both sides of the aisle that Masto is the weak link.
“This is the most important race on the map for Republicans or Democrats,” said one GOP strategist familiar with Nevada politics, later adding, “in Laxalt, you’ve got a candidate who can carry the change message very clearly, unify all clans in the Republican Party and is running a good race.”…
In a sign of Nevada’s importance to Democrats, the party’s Senate campaign arm launched a new ad Tuesday as part of a $33 million spending campaign, targeting Laxalt over his abortion stance and previous comments he made in which he reportedly called the Roe v. Wade decision a joke.
Given her fundraising advantage, Masto should be cruising to victory. Instead, she’s struggling to hold on to Hispanic voters and going all in on Roe v Wade as a campaign issue.
Meanwhile, Laxalt is campaigning on the economy and inflation. And NBC has another story up today about one factor that may be helping Laxalt’s campaign. The drop in gasoline prices nationwide has corresponded with the surge in Democratic polling. But prices aren’t dropping as quickly in Nevada as elsewhere.
Gas prices across the country have slipped significantly from the summer’s average high of $5 a gallon, as the issue appears to be losing some salience in political messaging.
But Nevada has seen a slower decline than most of the country, and still sports gas just below that $5 per gallon mark. That dynamic could loom large in pivotal races for governor, Senate and the House.
Nevada’s current average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $4.90, a slight decline from last month’s $4.95 per gallon, but an uptick from last week’s $4.84 per gallon average, per AAA.
With only a few weeks left, this is looking like a tight race. Whether or not Democrats have any chance to hold the Senate seems likely to come down to this race.