There comes a point during every Election Night, when most of the races in the East have been called, and our eyes turn to the West to watch how the final contests will tip the balance of power. This November, expect everyone to be turned towards Nevada.
The Silver State is uniquely qualified for this honor, with toss-up elections for Senate, Governor and three Congressional seats. Additionally, it’s one of the few battleground states where Trump trimmed his margin of defeat (he lost by 2.39% in 2020 and 2.42% in 2016), giving the GOP hope in this light blue state. Therefore, it’s a phenomenal test of the theory that 2022 will be an abnormal midterm.
To prepare for that moment on Election Night, let’s take a look at all of those aforementioned battleground races.
Nevada Senate: Cortez Masto vs Laxalt
Even while Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton on Election Night 2016, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto squeaked by Rep. Joe Heck with a 47.1% to 44.7% margin (or just 26,915 votes) to keep Harry Reid’s seat in Democratic hands. Yet ever since, Cortez Masto’s been at the top of the GOP’s 2022 Senate target list.
Cortez Masto is set to face her successor as Attorney General, Adam Laxalt, who is seeking to become a third-generation Senator. His grandfather, Paul Laxalt, represented Nevada from 1974 to 1987 and his father, Pete Domenici, represented New Mexico from 1973 to 2009. Although in a dramatic twist, Laxalt’s mother didn’t reveal who his father was until 2013.
Cortez Masto took aim at Laxalt’s uniquely privileged background back in August with a blistering TV ad. The sixty-second spot, which parodies the opening of the HBO show Succession, asserts that an entitled Laxalt escaped consequences for flunking out of college, as well as assaulting a police officer and subsequently lying about it.
Laxalt devoted multiple spots of his own to counter this narrative, before moving on and attacking Cortez Masto for her connections to Biden. Laxalt is also aiming to cut into his opponent’s margin with Hispanic voters, which will be no easy task against the first Latina Senator.
According to the polling, the two nominees have been locked in a tight contest all year while exchanging leads. The race is so close, in fact, that forecasters have disparate views. For instance, our own forecast has Laxalt ahead in the polling average by 3.5 points, yet sees Cortez Masto emerging victorious 50.7% of the time. Concurrently, FiveThirtyEight has Laxalt up by 0.9% while RealClearPolitics puts Laxalt ahead by 2.2%.
With Democrats holding strong in the Arizona and New Hampshire Senate races, Nevada and Georgia are generally accepted to be the best shot for the GOP to pick up seats. So it’s quite possible that we could all be watching Nevada in the early morning hours of November 9th to see which party ends up with the majority.
At the moment, there are no debates scheduled between the two nominees.
Nevada Governor: Sisolak vs Lombardo
Four years ago, Laxalt was running as the GOP nominee in the open Gubernatorial contest against Democratic nominee and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. In a midterm cycle that saw the Democrats gain seven Governorships, Sisolak won a narrow 49.3% to 45.3% victory over Laxalt (a margin of 39,687 votes).
Now, the Governor is seeking a second term in a less favorable environment, against Republican nominee and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.
Gov. Sisolak is using his TV ads to emphasize protecting abortion rights and his own “no new taxes” pledge. Meanwhile, Lombardo is hitting the incumbent on inflation and amplifying his law enforcement experience.
This past weekend the two nominees met for their only scheduled debate, and Lombardo may have gotten himself in trouble with former President Trump. Not only did the Republican refuse to endorse Donald Trump’s lie about the 2020 election being stolen, he even shied away from calling Trump a “great President’.”
Trump was set to attend a rally near Reno for Lombardo and Laxalt on Saturday Oct. 8, so it will be especially intriguing to see how the ex-President reacts to Lombardo’s debate comments.
Polling shows yet another nail-biter, although Sisolak seems to be running a tiny bit ahead of Cortez Masto. FiveThirtyEight has the Democratic Governor ahead by 0.3%, while RealClearPolitics puts Lombardo up 1.5%.
Nevada-1, Nevada-3 and Nevada-4
This year, three of the four Congressional districts in Nevada are considered competitive, with each one of the trio featuring Democratic incumbents hoping to hold on during Joe Biden’s first midterm.
First up is Congresswoman Dina Titus of Las Vegas, who’s seeking her sixth term against retired U.S. Army Colonel Mark Robertson.
Rep. Titus is selling herself to voters as a “fighter” willing to take on oil and drug companies, while also hitting the familiar refrain of protecting Social Security and Medicare from her GOP opponent. Conversely, Robertson is targeting Titus and Biden on inflation and border security.
Nevada’s 1st district is probably the most Democratic in the state, so it would signal an incoming red wave if Republicans win here. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates it as Leans Democratic, while Cook Political Report categorizes the seat as a toss-up.
The state’s 3rd district, representing the southern portion of Clark County, is much more of a battleground. Incumbent Rep. Susie Lee, who was first elected in the blue wave of 2018, is trying for her third term this November against Republican attorney April Becker.
In her TV ads, Rep. Lee is using the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe and the January 6th insurrection to paint Becker as an extremist. Becker, on the other hand, tries to tie Lee to Nancy Pelosi and high gas prices in her own commercials.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report both rated this race as a toss-up, so a Democratic win would be a sign of a precedent-breaking night.
Finally, there’s Nevada’s 4th district, which runs up from northern Las Vegas throughout the vast middle portion of the state.
Much like Rep. Lee, Congressman Steven Horsford is another 2018 alum looking for his third term as he runs against GOP Air Force vet Sam Peters.
Rep. Horsford put more resources than most into promoting his personal background and constituent services – whereas Peters chose a conservative message on immigration, guns and anti-socialism.
The 4th district is another example of Sabato and Cook disagreeing, with the former classifying it as Leans Democratic and the latter considering it a toss-up.
So now when the witching hour of Election Night 2022 arrives, you’ll be prepared to follow all of Nevada’s most pivotal races.