Election 2012

Odds favor Republican Senator in Nevada — Romney, not so much

Odds favor Republican Senator in Nevada -- Romney, not so much

The odds are in Rep. Dean Heller’s favor to win the Senate race in Nevada keeping that seat solidly in the Republican’s corner, but the chances aren’t as good at the top of the ticket for Mitt Romney who cancelled an event there this weekend to focus on other states including Ohio.

Heller has the advantage of running as an incumbent in front of conservative voters there — he was appointed to the Senate following the resignation of fellow Republican John Ensign last year after an embarrassing sex scandal.

The Democratic opponent Rep. Shelley Berkley has her own troubles as the target of an ethics investigation being conducted by her Democratic and Republican peers back in Washington to determine if she used her official position for financial gain.

The most recent poll averages collected by Real Clear Politics puts Heller in front of Berkley by 3.5 percentage points.

“We are confident Dean Heller will be re-elected on Nov. 6th because not only has he been a great senator for Nevada, but he’s running against one of the most unethical and liberal members of Congress,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We believe that regardless of the outcome of the presidential race in Nevada, Dean Heller will win.”

Democrats are counting on solid support from union members, Latinos, and the coattails of President Barack Obama who has maintained a steady lead at the head of the slate to push Berkley over the finish line on Election Day, says Jim Manley, former communications director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“The higher the turnout for the president the better off it’s going to be for Rep. Berkley,” Manley said. “She’s never run state-wide before, so in the end she’s going to need a little boost in the turnout for the presidential campaign.”

“That’s what it will come down to in the end – presidential turnout, and to a significant degree, the ground game that Sen. Reid put together years ago getting ready for his own race in 2010,” Manley said.

Back in Washington, Democrats hold the reins to power in the Senate with a 53-seat majority over Republicans’ 47 seats, so the Nevada race is central for the GOP to take control.

“The fact is that Republican candidates nationwide haven’t done as well as they expected so it’s absolutely crucial for Sen. Reid to keep Nevada in the Democratic column,” Manley said.

Aiding efforts for Democrats is the Culinary Workers Union, a 55,000-member organization that the Associated Press (AP) reports is knocking on 150,000 doors in Clark County to campaign for Berkley and Obama. The labor group’s super PAC and others funded for Democratic support have launched a “remarkable spending spree” pouring $20 million into the race to reach the state’s 1.2 million voters, the AP said.

However, Berkley’s campaign has been overshadowed by the ethics investigation and charges that she used her position to influence a decision to keep a kidney transplant center open in Southern Nevada. Berkley’s husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, is a specialist who held a contract to offer kidney care services at the medical center.

Berkley maintains that she was motivated by the needs of her constituents, not her husband’s wallet.

Romney has lagged behind Obama in Nevada throughout the race, with the most recent average compiled by Real Clear Politics putting him in the minus column by 2.7 percentage points. Obama won the state in 2008 against Republican nominee Sen. John McCain by 12 points.

However, the Las Vegas Review Journal endorsed Romney last month, and in a Nov. 1 editorial criticized the Obama administration’s recent handling of the terrorist attack on the embassy in Benghazi.

“This administration is an embarrassment on foreign policy and incompetent at best on the economy,” the editorial said.

“To return to office a narcissistic amateur who seeks to ride this nation’s economy and international esteem to oblivion, like Slim Pickens riding the nuclear bomb to its target at the end of the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ would be disastrous.”

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