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The story in the numbers

There are plenty of numbers in politics, some that are quite meaningful and others that don‘€™t mean much.

Democrats last week were touting a poll that shows former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto ahead of GOP Rep. Joe Heck in next year‘s U.S. Senate race, 42 percent to 41 percent.

The poll, commissioned by a PAC formed by ex-aides to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., found Hillary Clinton leading Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump for president.

So, what does it all mean?

Not that much. In fact, here‘s a good rule of thumb as the 2016 election cycle kicks off: No poll conducted more than a couple of weeks before an election can possibly predict the winner, and even then, the turnout model on which the poll is based must be accurate.

Other than that, polls will only tell where things stand at a particular moment in time, and, when compared with previous surveys, how a race is trending. That‘s it.

And today, more than 15 months from Election Day 2016, no poll is going to mean very much.

The mother‘€™s milk of politics. Fundraising numbers are important to campaigns not only because money buys ads, but also because it‘s something of a free-market barometer of a candidate€‘s viability. Yes, plenty of people give from their heart — look at Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders raising $15.2 million for his presidential bid! But plenty more give from their head, a calculated investment in enterprises they find viable.

In Nevada‘s 4th Congressional District, Democratic philanthropist Susie Lee showed she has a lot of investors who think her campaign is worthwhile; she raised $280,260 in the second quarter of 2015.

Lee was followed by state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, who impressed enough people to raise $214,554 for his bid.

Former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera didn‘€™t announce until recently and hasn‘€™t reported his fundraising totals yet, but he knows a number roughly in the Kihuen-Lee ballpark is necessary to show he‘€™s a serious contender by the time the next reports are due.

Bringing up the rear was former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who logged $106,021 in contributions. While that total isn‘t fatal, it‘€™s definitely not a good sign.

And the incumbent? Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy brought in $194,039. It‘€™s not nothing, but you€‘d expect more from a strong incumbent. Hardy barely won the seat in 2014‘€™s "€œred tide,"€ and many expect he‘€™ll be a one-and-done officeholder. Looks like some donors may agree.

Candidate fundraising is but one part of the money game. (Outside spending by allegedly uncoordinated PACs will be a big factor, the same as it was in 2014). But the initial money numbers do tell a story.

Moving tourists! The new Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee kicked off its series of meetings last week. Over the next year, representatives of academia, local government, business and the casino industry will discus everything from stadiums and arenas to convention centers, airports and how to move people between all of the above.

That effort dovetails with a study of local roads dubbed the Transportation Investment Business Plan, the preliminary results of which are on the Regional Transportation Committee‘€™s website.

Cynics (and I certainly am one)€” who drive local roadways might say things can‘€™t possibly get worse, with constant construction, lane restrictions, road closures and wacky ideas like doubling down on the Las Vegas Monorail.

They‘d be wrong: Things can definitely get worse. That‘€™s why we need to set high expectations for the work of these groups and demand concrete results.

They‘€™re going to ask for more money, we know that. We have to insist that we get something useful in exchange.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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