Harry Reid has been one of two U.S. Senators from Nevada since 1987, so could his incumbency really be in trouble after 20 years in office?
Possibly, at least it doesn’t look great for Reid.
For starters Reid hasn’t technically dominated his contests since being elected in 1986. He’s like the Texas football team of the Senate, winning close contests and making it all the way.
His first election he won by six points, his second election he pulled out a nine point victory, and in 1998 he only beat republican John Ensign, who would later become a Nevada U.S. Senator, by 428 votes. His first three elections were all under 10 point victories, they’re respectable, but I wouldn’t call it domination. I also wouldn’t say the GOP had lost all hope.
In 2004 he was able to completely dominate the race, winning 61% to 35%.
The key to Reid’s victories, and really any national politician’s victory in Nevada, relies heavily on three counties; Clark, Mineral, and Washoe. Clark County is home to Nevada’s largest city and tourist attraction, Las Vegas.
In his dominating 2004 election, Reid carried Clark and Mineral counties by over 30% and won Washoe County with 58% of the vote. Fairly dominating victories in the three most important counties in the state.
The reason Ensign was able to get so close in 1998 was because he snuck out a win in Washoe County and kept the race very competitive in Clark and Mineral counties.
So let that be known, a key to victory in Nevada rests heavily on a politician’s success in Clark County, after all it’s the most populated county in the state.
So why might Reid lose in 2010? For starters the poll numbers say he will, the latest polls show both potential republican challengers beating Reid by at least six points. The latest poll also shows 49% of Nevadans have an unfavorable opinion of Reid (only 38% hold a favorable view). The latest poll also shows that a majority of Nevadans are against Obama’s health care reform which Reid is attempting to run through congress.
But we all know how polls can be, especially with just under a year until the election. A lot can change, and the republican challenger hasn’t been selected yet. The GOP primary race has a field of six, but it really comes down to two people; Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian. Both have a business background, but I think only one can beat Reid; Lowden.
Remember what the key to winning Nevada is? Did you not pay attention? The key to winning Nevada is Clark County. If a republican has a chance of beating Reid they have to win Washoe County and come close, or win, Clark County.
Now what’s the one advantage incumbents have over newcomers? Recognition. Everyone in Nevada knows who Reid is, so the republicans have to put up a candidate that has name recognition.
Bearing those two things in mind, here’s why Lowden can take down Reid.
First, she was a state senator from Clark County. Clark County is heavily democratic and Lowden was able to win as a republican. She served in 1992 through 1996 so she’s not coming right from serving, but most older voters will recognize the name.
If they don’t recognize her from being a state senator, chances are they’ll recognize her from television. Lowden was a reporter and news anchor on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. It just so happens KLAS has been the ratings leader in Las Vegas for quite some time, giving Lowden plenty of face time and recognition, not only in Clark County but the surrounding areas as well.
Lastly she was a businesswoman, and the economy and spending are the top issues on the voters minds. She was the President of Santa Fe Hotel and Casino and Executive Vice President for Sahara Hotel and Casino. No doubt she will tout her business background, and in this political climate, where voters feel disenfranchised and aloof from Washington mainstays, that will give her a huge advantage.
We might be a year out from Harry Reid’s reelection bid in Nevada, but if Lowden can pull off a victory in the Republican Primary there’s a good chance Reid will be in a big heap of trouble.