After opposing Trump in 2016, Heller feeling closer to president

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., readily admits he “wasn’t one of the biggest supporters” of President Donald Trump during the 2016 election. “I didn’t know him. He didn’t know me.”

But now that the two know each other better, Heller told the Review-Journal, they have a “much closer relationship.”

Perhaps no other candidate running for re-election in 2018 has more to win and more to lose because Trump is in the White House. Heller vehemently opposed Trump in 2016 and is the only GOP senator running for re-election in 2018 in a state won by Hillary Clinton.

Now Heller, who revealed in August that he voted for Trump, is running for re-election in a year when the president’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has declared war on GOP incumbents and criticized Heller by name.

Perennial GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian is challenging Heller in the June primary. Rep. Jacky Rosen, a first-term Democrat, will challenge the winner in November.

Heller is “scared to death of losing that primary,” Nevada Democratic Party Communications Director Stewart Boss said. He pointed to Heller’s opposition to early Republican bills to remake Obamacare but eventual vote in favor of the “skinny” Obamacare repeal that failed.

Boss recalled the July lunch at the White House at which Trump pointed to Heller, whom he had seated next to him, and said, “This is the one we were worried about,” but predicted Heller would vote for a Senate health care bill because “he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

“So that moment in the sun, back in July, I take as a positive step,” Heller said. “Both of us moving forward to try to get things done.”

When Trump invited GOP lawmakers to the White House to celebrate passage of a tax bill this month, Heller again had a place of honor near Trump. It was a nice spot, Heller later admitted. “I’ll stand wherever the president wants me to stand.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or at 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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