(CN) — Nevada is a blue state. At least that’s the conventional wisdom as of late.
But recent trends combined with a look at Nevada’s history indicates a swing could be in the offing. The state has not gone for a Republican candidate since it handed George W. Bush five electoral votes in 2004. Before that, it helped elect Democrat Bill Clinton twice. Prior to that it sent its electoral votes to George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan twice, once again proving it is not overly hostile to Republican ideas and candidates.
Sure, the Silver State voted for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, but it also voted for Richard Nixon — twice.
Voter oscillations are not a bug but a feature of the state with its all-important six electoral votes that boasts 3 million people and a population that is growing at one of the fastest rates in the nation.
So the upcoming primary season and general election will serve as important litmus test for Democrats' ability to hold power at the national and state level or whether Republicans can make incursions into those strongholds.
“It depends on where we see the shift,” said Mike Noble, a pollster with OH Predictive Insights out of Arizona. “In the suburbs, you could see it swing the other way. Nevada leans left, don't get me wrong, but the current environment looks pretty pro-Republican so they could get back some gains in a state they have been losing.”
It’s heartening news for the Republicans vying to represent the party in the U.S. Senate. While the field is crowded it appears to be a two-horse race between Adam Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general and Sam Brown, a small business owner and former Army captain who was wounded in the Iraq War.
The Republican Primary in Nevada is slated for June 14, where candidates will vie to represent their parties in the general election on Nov. 8.
The two major races in Nevada are for the U.S. Senate, which is expected to be competitive given the struggle for the balance of power in the upper legislative chamber, and for governor.
In the Senate race, the current polling favors Laxalt, the grandson of former Governor Paul Laxalt and something of political royalty in the Silver State. Laxalt has 45% of poll respondents, while Brown has marshalled 30%, according to a poll administered by Oh Predictive Insights and the Nevada Independent.
“Laxalt is not a shoe-in, but he is in a very good position,” Noble said. “Whatever Sam Brown’s strategy is, he better turn on the jets.”
But Brown has continued to outperform expectations by proving an articulate candidate and a capable of campaigner. But is there enough daylight between the two candidates?
During the May 9 debate between Laxalt and Brown, the first time the two candidates faced off against each other, Brown struggled to differentiate himself from Laxalt, who has received the all-important endorsement from Donald Trump.
Trump still looms over Republican politics in Nevada.
For example, Brown hit Laxalt during the debate for not doing enough as attorney general to investigate voter fraud issues during the 2020 general election and further said he did not do enough to file timely election fraud claims on behalf of the Trump administration.
“Election integrity is one of the areas where Adam has failed us,” Brown said. “In 2020, we relied on you and by your admission, your lawsuits were filed too late.”
Laxalt said the attack was “pretty comical” and represented a misunderstanding of his power as attorney general to challenge election results, given it's under the purview of the secretary of state.