Nevada Primary Preview
The annual August exodus from Washington is in full swing, but politics -- and primaries -- continue on beyond the Beltway. Today Nevada voters head to the polls to select nominees for governor as well as an open congressional seat.
Here's a primer of what you need to know about the Silver State races on the ballot today. As always, this is not a comprehensive look at every race being contested, but rather a short look at the most important races.
The most competitive race in Nevada this fall will likely be in the 3rd District, but the party primaries are non-competitive. Tessa Hafen, a former staffer for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, faces a number of non-serious opponents today, while Rep. Jon Porter (R) is not being challenged.
Governor: The are contested primaries on both sides of the party divide. For much of the past year the Democratic race between state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus and Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson has been considered the more competitive contest, with Rep. Jim Gibbons expected to coast to the Republican nomination.
But a Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday showed the Republican race narrowing. The survey showed Gibbons with a 41 percent to 31 percent edge over state Sen. Bob Beers. Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt trailed with 15 percent.
Beers appears to be enough of a threat to Gibbons that the congressman is attacking his credentials on fiscal conservatism, pointing out that the state senator voted himself a pay raise, has called for higher property taxes and voted for more than $13 billion in spending.
Our guess is that these ads and Gibbons's massive financial advantage will quell any momentum that Beers has built up, but the fact that the frontrunner was so easily dinged could bode poorly for Republicans in the fall.
On the Democratic side, Titus has long been considered the frontrunner, but many within the political establishment -- including some of those close to Sen. Reid -- believed that Gibson would run the better campaign and be the stronger general election candidate. That prediction has not come to pass as Titus held a 51 percent to 32 percent margin over Gibson in the new Mason-Dixon survey.
Titus appears to have gotten the better of the back and forth that has dominated the last six weeks of the campaign, and barring some sort of major event in the final day she should claim the nomination.
Should Gibbons and Titus win, this race will be a study in contrasts. Gibbons has already begun labeling Titus a liberal for her voting record in the state Senate; Titus is likely to cast Gibbons as a conservative ideologue with few accomplishments to show for his time in Washington. At the outset, Gibbons hold a lead according to Mason-Dixon, which gave him a 46 percent to 35 percent margin.
Nevada's 2nd District: The district being vacated by Gibbons is playing host to an extremely competitive three-way Republican primary between Secretary of State Dean Heller, Assemblywoman Sharron Angle and former Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, who is Jim Gibbons's wife.
At the moment, it appears to be a two-person contest between Heller and Angle. The Mason-Dixon poll showed those two knotted at 32 percent while Gibbons had support from 19 percent. Sixteen percent of voters were undecided.
Angle is the candidate with the momentum -- thanks to considerable spending on her behalf by the Washington-based Club For Growth. The group has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to air ads attacking Heller and Gibbons as liberals and touting Angle as the lone dependable conservative in the race. Heller, who began the race as the frontrunner, has sought to paint Angle and Gibbons with that same brush. Gibbons is hoping that Angle and Heller split the conservative vote, but she has run an underfunded campaign to date.
On the Democratic side, University of Nevada Regent Jill Derby (D) has raised a considerable amount of money, but the 2nd District is a very tough one for her party. President Bush won the 2nd with 57 percent of the vote in 2004.
Nevada's top political report, Jon Ralston, recently made his own predictions.
Polls close in Nevada at 10 p.m. ET tonight. Check The Fix tomorrow for follow-up analysis on the winners. The Nevada Secretary of State will post returns online here.
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