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PARTY LINES: Nevada’s top races are too close to call, polls say

Updated September 25, 2022 - 11:30 am

This is going to be a close election, perhaps closer than any we’ve seen in recent years.

Certainly closer than 2016, when former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto defeated then-Rep. Joe Heck, 47 percent to 45 percent, a difference of 26,915 votes.

That same year, Hillary Clinton bested Donald Trump, 48 percent to 45.5 percent, or 27,202 votes.

In 2018, then-Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak put down a challenge from then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, 49 percent to 45 percent, separated by 39,687 votes. Then-Rep. Jacky Rosen overcame then-U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, 50 percent to 45 percent, or 48,869 actual votes.

And two years ago, Joe Biden defeated Trump, 50 percent to 47.6 percent, a margin of 33,596 votes.

All that to say that statewide races in Nevada always have been fairly tight, and over the last three cycles, never decided by a margin of more than 50,000 overall votes in an electorate that now numbers 1.7 million active registered voters.

The 2022 election is still more than a month away, but as of right now, polls show the races extremely tight.

The Real Clear Politics polling average for the U.S. Senate race has Laxalt ahead of Cortez Masto as of Friday, 45.5 percent to 43.8 percent. Polls throughout the race have had Cortez Masto up by as much as 9 points, and Laxalt ahead by as much as 4 points.

In the race for governor, Real Clear Politics puts Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo ahead of Sisolak, 45.3 percent to 43.7 percent.

Statewide, the Democratic registration advantage over Republicans is fewer than 50,000 voters: There are currently 48,398 more active Democrats than Republicans. The next largest group is nonpartisans, who comprise more than 517,000 active registered voters.

In 2016, Democrats had out-registered Republicans by more than 71,000 active registered voters at this point in the election cycle. In 2018, that figure was more than 68,000. But in 2020, a presidential election year, that figured had risen to more than 91,000.

In voter-rich Clark County, the current Democratic advantage is still robust: 124,426 voters. Back in 2016, it was 123,000 active registered voters; in 2018 it was 129,000 and two years ago it was more than 153,000.

What does all that mean? Nothing besides the obvious: The winning campaigns are going to be the ones that have done the best job at the meat-and-potatoes side of politics: identifying their likely voters and turning them out to vote, whether by mail, during early voting or on Election Day. Only this year, because the races are so very close, there’s very little room for mistakes between now and Nov. 8.

Where’s her dog Spot?

One of Cortez Masto’s newest ads has the senator touting a bill that calls for domestic manufacturing of computer chips, in order to secure the supply chain for items such as cars and other electronics. She touted her support for the measure in July when the Senate vote on the bill was held.

“This legislation will help us prioritize American-made technology, drive greater research and development, create jobs, bolster our national security, reduce costs and alleviate stress in our supply chains across a range of essential consumer products,” Cortez Masto said at the time.

It’s a good issue, but it was hard to concentrate because of the setting: Cortez Masto standing in the lot of a car dealership. When we first saw that ad, the TV was on mute, and it looked like she was selling automobiles instead of running for re-election.

We half expected to turn on the sound and hear her say, “I’m Catherine Cortez Masto, and I will not be undersold! We’ve got to make room for the 2023 models, and these babies are priced to move! I don’t need a cute animal to make you the deal of a lifetime! So come on down to Masto Motors, and let’s get you into a new car today!”

Speaking of cute animals

Sisolak toured the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on Friday and spoke to reporters afterwards. The Review-Journal’s James Schaeffer asked him the ultimate political question: Is the governor a dog person or cat person?

“I’m a dog person,” Sisolak replied, with a chuckle. “I’ve had a couple of cats and the hair kind of gets in the air and in my eyes, and that made it difficult for me.” Well, there goes the cat vote, governor!

Sisolak added that he doesn’t have a dog now, because he and his wife travel so much, but that his daughters do have dogs, rescue animals all. And while he didn’t adopt one Friday, he said one of the members of his security detail was thinking about it.

“It’s very easy to walk out of here with one (a pet),” Sisolak said. “They look at you with those big eyes and that face. I’ll tell you what, they can melt you real quick.”

You heard it from the governor, people: Adopt, don’t shop!

Surprise, surprise!

Laxalt was only too happy on Friday to tout the polls showing him ahead in the race for U.S. Senate in a fundraising email to supporters, which surely is good news for his campaign. The email attributed his surge to “surging inflation, rising violent crime, the effects of an open border and record-high gas prices,” and then added: “We look forward to Cortez Masto’s campaign conceding defeat in November.”

(That line is interesting, because although recently Laxalt has said he will accept the results of the 2022 election, he’s said back in September 2021 that he’s planning lawsuits “…to try to tighten up the (2022) election.”)

But on Wednesday, in a separate fundraising email, Laxalt’s team had a very different take on the race. “My jaw just dropped,” read an email from Laxalt’s campaign, written in the candidate’s own voice. “My race has been named the #1 most important race in the country – and recent polls have me ahead of my Dem opponent, Catherine Cortez Masto.”

Now, it’s entirely possible the real-life Laxalt may have been surprised at his standing in the polls, but it’s unlikely. Even if he was, it’s never a good idea to tell people that. Where’s the self-confidence? Shouldn’t you expect to be ahead in the polls? Why should this news be a surprise, let alone a jaw-dropping one?

This is your regular reminder that the digital elves who write fundraising emails insult their candidates on a regular basis, and they really shouldn’t. It may work to raise money, but it really makes the person whose name is on the ballot look bad.

Do better, elves!

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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