LAS VEGAS (CN) — How does Nevada elect a Republican governor challenger while Democrats take three of four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and a U.S Senate race?
“Nevada has always been a swing state. People like to say ‘oh, it’s red; oh, it’s blue.’ No, it goes back and forth,” said Mark Peplowski, a former professor in political science at College of Southern Nevada.
“What you notice, when talking about the congressional candidates, or winners, they’re all incumbents. They had the benefit of incumbency and message delivery. They are all good at it because they’ve won before. Those are important factors,” Peplowski said.
Francis Carleton, a social science professor who teaches political courses at CSN, echoed what Peplowski said about Nevada being a level playing field with Republicans vs. Democrats.
“Those that were claiming Nevada was blue were jumping the gun. We’re really not,” Carleton said, adding Nevada may lean Democrat but by a slim margin.
Democratic incumbant Catherine Cortez Masto narrowly defeated Adam Laxalt, with 48.9% of the vote to 48.0.%, in the U.S Senate battle.
Along with the power that comes with incumbency, Cortez Masto outraised Laxalt by a wide margin — $58.5 million to $15.8 million as of mid-October, according to a report from the Federal Election Commission. The race proved to be key for Democrats, who maintained control of the U.S. Senate.
The battles for U.S. congressional seats were also very close — a toss-up, according to pundits. “Too close to call” and “dead heat” were heard constantly in the buildup to the election.
Incumbent Democrats Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford all defeated their Republican challengers Mark Robertson, April Becker and Sam Peters, respectively. Mark Amodei was the lone Republican winner, earning the nod over Democrat Mercedes Krause.
“The three congressional seats (won by Democrats) we’re talking about are all in Clark County or most of Clark County, and it’s is a heavier Democratic and independent area than the rest of the state. The 16 other counties are all red,” Peplowski said.
As for the governor’s race, Republican Joe Lombardo unseated Democrat Steve Sisolak, 48.8% to 47.4%.
“In a better year for Democrats, Sisolak might have won. But it wasn’t that kind of cycle. Joe Biden’s president. He’s not popular. He’s a Democrat. That washes off a little bit on other Democrats down the ticket,” Carleton said. “Lombardo winning the governor’s race was not shocking. That sounds about right to me.”
Did the Covid shutdowns have any lingering effect?
“I think some of it was the Covid hangover. Some memories of maybe overly aggressive shutdown policies in some of it,” Carleton said, but noted Sisolak had a few deficiencies, such as not being charismatic and lacking as a public speaker.
Peplowski has a different take. He said he didn’t think Covid restrictions had anything to do with Sisolak's loss.
“The governor had to win Clark County by a very significant majority in order to overcome the red bias in the rest of the state,” Peplowski said. “The congressional candidates didn’t have to. They just needed to hold their party loyalists. They just kept the the normal people and they got re-elected. The governor wasn’t able to do it.”
He continued: “I was personally surprised that (Sisolak) lost. I felt that having watched the messaging in this campaign, I felt like there wasn’t any real significant baggage that should have kept him from being reelected."
Both experts agreed a failed strategy was used by Republican Jim Marchant, an election denier who lost 48.9% to 46.7%, in his battle for secretary of state against Democrat Cisco Aguilar.
“Jim may very well have won if he wasn’t a denier,” Peplowski said.
Carleton agreed. “Very few election deniers were winning the close races, and I don’t think any of them won secretary of state races anywhere. Thank heaven for that,” he said. "I think that was an approach that proved to be not productive for the Republican Party.”
Carleton said Republicans suffered a “black eye” after former President Donald Trump “endorsed all these MAGA people.”
Looking forward, Carleton said he was optimistic “that Governor Lombardo will be able to work productively with the Legislature.” He said the upcoming biennial budget will tell us a lot.
But Peplowski isn't as optimistic.
“I have always taught that voters vote ignorantly and emotionally. By that I mean they refuse to learn anything about the candidates or their own parties, and they jump to whatever hot-button conspiracy theory that gets dropped in their lap,” he said.
“It’s easier to vote against somebody than to find a good read reason to vote for somebody,” he added, noting independents and nonpartisan voters are “kicking ass in Nevada” and continue to have a larger influence on elections.
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