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Jacky Rosen’s Senate race now a ‘toss up,’ national report says

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted Sen. Jacky Rosen’s race from “lean Democrat” to a “toss up,” signifying the Nevada senator could have a tough time winning re-election in the fall.

Rosen will go up against whichever Republican wins the crowded June 11 primary. The current GOP front runner is Sam Brown, who ran for Senate in 2022 but didn’t make it through the primary.

Jessica Taylor of the Cook Political Report, which provides independent analysis of elections and campaigns, said it shifted Rosen’s race due to a number of “unique forces at play” in the Silver State, including Nevada’s ever-changing electorate, President Joe Biden’s lagging poll numbers and the state’s uniquely slow economic recovery from COVID-19.

The designation might come as a surprise, since Nevada is one of the swing states Democrats carried in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Yet in 2022, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto narrowly won by just under 8,000 votes over former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, and former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak became the only incumbent governor to lose re-election, ousted by then-Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, according to the report.

“Although voters look at races for governor and Senate differently, if Republicans use the strategy Lombardo did — especially in targeting early and absentee voters, where many sources say Laxalt lagged behind, along with appealing to more moderate and independent voters — the outcome may be different,” the Cook Political Report wrote.

Rosen also differs from Cortez Masto in that she had a more rapid rise in Nevada politics, while Cortez Masto was more established in her previous role as attorney general. Rosen lacks the established brand as other senators on the ballot, such as Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, the Cook Political Report wrote.

Her campaign, however, isn’t worried.

“Nevada Senate races are always close and competitive,” campaign spokesperson Johanna Warshaw said in a statement. The campaign is confident that voters will re-elect Rosen and reject “MAGA extremists” like Brown, Warshaw said.

In response to the shift from the Cook Political Report, Brown took a shot at Rosen on X, calling her a rubber stamp for President Joe Biden who has made things worse for Nevadans. “We are going to win in November, secure the border and make Nevada more affordable for middle class families,” Brown’s post read.

Republicans’ efforts to oust Nevada’s junior senator could be tough. Rosen has set herself apart from other Democratic senators by showing her ability to cross the aisle. Capitol Hill news source CQ Roll Call ranked Rosen as third among Democratic senators who most often break ranks within their party, and she was listed among the most bipartisan senators by the Lugar Center.

Rosen’s first 2024 election cycle ads, released in English and Spanish this week, highlight Rosen’s bipartisan record and her less traditional path, such as paying her own way through college.

She also comes to the race flush with cash, with $10.6 million on hand to defend her seat. Brown’s $1.7 million war chest pales in comparison, but he has the backing of national Republicans eager to take over more Senate seats.

While national GOP leaders don’t seem worried about Brown securing the Republican nomination in June (polls consistently show him ahead), the large field of primary contenders are putting up a fight, and a key endorsement could shake up the race.

Jeff Gunter, former U.S. ambassador to Iceland under the Trump administration, has tried to position himself as the most “America First” candidate and loyalist to former President Donald Trump. Gunter, a dermatologist in Southern Nevada, spent time with Trump at his Super Tuesday event, and the former president spoke at a fundraiser for Gunter.

An endorsement from the Republican presidential nominee could move the needle, although it would go toe-to-toe with Gov. Lombardo’s recent endorsement of Brown.

Other Republicans in the crowded primary field are not to be ignored, either. Former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who has unsuccessfully ran for both Congress and secretary of state, boasts that he wins primaries (though when it comes to general elections, he says, he is a victim of election fraud).

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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