6 electoral votes up for grab in Silver State
November 7, 2016
LAS VEGAS — Beyond doling out the state's six electoral votes, Nevada voters in Tuesday's election will issue their verdict in a highly competitive U.S. Senate race, decide two close House contests and two that aren't so close, and rule on whether Republicans maintain their powerful majority position in the Legislature.
Here's what to watch as the results roll in:
While Democrats concede the presidential race is closer than it should be, Hillary Clinton is favored to win. Her campaign is integrated into a sophisticated Democratic "machine" that includes unions, down-ticket campaigns and progressive groups working to harness anti-Donald Trump fervor and get less-consistent voters to the polls.
Nevada has had regular injections of star power from Team Clinton — including Katy Perry, Mexican mega-star Vicente Fernandez, President Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders — in an effort to run up the score for Clinton, especially among younger and nonwhite voters.
Democrats notched a six-percentage-point turnout advantage in two weeks of early voting, but Trump's campaign thinks it can overturn that deficit on Election Day.
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Trump has packed Nevada rallies but is depending heavily on his boisterous personality and ground-game help from the Republican National Committee to carry him across the finish line.
HIGH-STAKES SENATE CONTEST
Perhaps the biggest question of Nevada's election is who will win a neck-and-neck race for the seat of retiring Sen. Harry Reid. Republican Rep. Joe Heck recently revoked his Trump endorsement after lewd 2005 comments came to light, but now isn't saying who he'll vote for and is avoiding the limelight.
Democrats supporting former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto have waged a two-front battle. They've trumpeted the angry backlash against Heck within the Trump-supporting Republican base that he needs to win the tight race, and argued he denounced Trump too late and doesn't get credit for dropping Trump.
Outside groups have poured more than $90 million into the race, one of a handful that could decide which party controls the Senate.
HEATED HOUSE RACES
A Democratic early voting lead that's especially pronounced in southern Nevada is an encouraging sign for Democrats in two competitive House races.
Freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy won his seat in a 2014 upset and has kept his re-election bid within the margin of error for much of the contest. But a double-digit Democratic registration advantage there might be too much for the folksy lawmaker from rural Mesquite.
Obama and former president Bill Clinton support his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who emigrated from Mexico and is loyal to the powerful Culinary Union.
Meanwhile, the contest is more of a wild card in a southern Nevada district where Democrats and Republicans are registered in nearly equal numbers. The GOP's Heck dominated for three cycles before running for the U.S. Senate.
Polls offered wildly divergent predictions of the race between Democratic political newcomer Jacky Rosen, a former synagogue leader, and Republican Danny Tarkanian, who's made several unsuccessful bids for office and has high name recognition as son of the late, legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.
PREDICTABLE HOUSE RACES
Republican Rep. Mark Amodei is heavily favored for re-election in a conservative northern Nevada district, but he faces more of a challenge than usual. Democratic radio host Chip Evans has run TV ads condemning Amodei for chairing Trump's Nevada campaign and for missing votes in Congress.
Democratic incumbent Rep. Dina Titus faces poorly funded opponents in an urban Las Vegas district with a 2-to-1 Democratic registration advantage. Absent a competitive race, she's been actively campaigning for Clinton and Cortez Masto, who need to drive up turnout in her diverse district to boost their prospects.
Democrats hope anti-Trump sentiment and elevated presidential cycle turnout will help carry them back into the majority in the Nevada Assembly and Senate. Three close contests could tip the balance of power in the Senate, which favors Republicans 11-10.
All seats are up for grabs in the Assembly, which has a good probability of turning to Democratic hands after a cycle of a 25-17 Republican majority.
Legislatures have the weighty task of setting voting policy and drawing congressional districts every 10 years, so higher-ups are keeping a close eye on who has control. Obama issued endorsements and cut radio ads on behalf of several candidates — a sign of the influence those lawmakers will have in deciding how easily each party can win seats in Congress.
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