Until last month, the race to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid has long been considered the lone Senate contest in 2016 in which Republicans could pick up a seat now in Democratic hands.
But the Republican vying for that seat, Rep. Joe Heck, seems to be in trouble after dropping support for Donald Trump. Since his announcement in early October, virtually every poll showed longtime front-runner Heck now trailing Democratic Catherine Cortez Masto.
A recent CNN/ORC survey showed Cortez Masto leading Heck 52 to 45 percent, and an 8 NewsNow (Las Vegas) poll showed her leading by 40 to 35 percent.
“Joe hurt himself with that ‘disendorsement’ and especially among conservatives who didn’t like some things in his voting record,” Chuck Muth, president of the Las Vegas conservative grass-roots advocacy group Citizen Outreach, told me. “He had already lost people over votes he cast on immigration and lifting the debt limit. The [announcement] may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Sensing a win, Democrats from Barack Obama on down have pounced on the issue of Heck’s change of position on Trump. During a recent Democratic dinner, the president said Heck’s position came “too late” and led a cheering crowd chanting “Heck, No!”
As for Heck's reason, he explained that his wife “was the victim of domestic abuse in a prior relationship” and said that the recent release of an 11-year-old recording of Trump making abusive remarks about women led to his decision.
“When you have a wife with a past history of abuse, I understand why one would take the position he did,” former Nevada GOP National Committeeman Joe Brown told me. “But Joe did hurt himself with this disendorsement. He lost support among Trump backers and gained no one from the other side. There was a downside and no upside.”
Along with Heck, Nevada’s GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval reversed his earlier support of Trump. So did freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy, who faces a stiff challenge from Democratic State Sen. Ruben Kihuan in the 4th District.
In contrast, Republican Rep. Mark Amodei of the 2nd District (northern Nevada) is Trump’s state campaign chairman and Danny Tarkanian, Republican nominee in the open 3rd District (Las Vegas) is sticking with Trump.
The latest CNN poll of the Silver State showed Hillary Clinton leading Trump 46 to 44 percent.
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