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VICTOR JOECKS: Laxalt, Lombardo are pulling ahead in Nevada

When it comes to Nevada’s most-watched political races, the national pundits have it wrong. Both Adam Laxalt and Joe Lombardo should be clear favorites.

There are seven weeks until Election Day. Nevada has hotly contested races for U.S. Senate and governor. Decision Desk HQ predicts Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto wins 63 percent of the time. FiveThirtyEight has Gov. Steve Sisolak victorious a bit under two-thirds of the time. PredictIt, an election-betting website, has Nevada’s Senate race just about tied, while Sisolak is a slight favorite. Odds are as of Tuesday.

They’re wrong. Adam Laxalt and Joe Lombardo should be favored in their respective races by at least 2-to-1 odds. Here’s why.

It begins with Nevada’s voter registration data. In October 2018, Nevada had 75,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. In October 2020, the Democrat lead was 87,000. In both cases, Democrats held a 4.8-percentage point advantage.

Last month, that lead had shrunk to under 49,000 voters or less than 2.8 percentage points. Remember, Joe Biden won Nevada by fewer than 34,000 votes or 2.4 percentage points. That advantage is virtually gone.

There are now fewer registered Democrats in Nevada than there were in October 2018, while the number of registered Republicans is up. Republicans generally overperform in Nevada’s off-year elections, too.

Nationally, Democrats are swapping working-class Hispanic voters for college-educated women. That may be a good trade politically in some states. It isn’t in Nevada. Plenty of data points and anecdotes suggest a sizable shift toward Republicans among Nevada Latinos.

Then, there’s the polling. Emerson College polled Nevada in July and September. There was a four-point swing in favor of Republican candidates. The newest poll had Laxalt ahead and Lombardo tied.

What Cortez Masto and Sisolak should be most concerned about is their own level of support. Polls show them routinely failing to hit even 45 percent. Undecided voters tend to break against incumbents. That leaves them little room to grow.

This is especially obvious when you consider TV advertising. Democrats and their supporters have dominated the airwaves for months, but Republicans are still close or ahead. As Republicans even out the ad spending, expect Laxalt and Lombardo to continue to build their support.

The issue of environment is a disaster for Democrats. The economy and inflation remain at the top of voters’ minds. Cortez Masto cast the deciding votes on bills that significantly increased inflation. The border is a sieve. Biden is unpopular. Gasoline prices are down from record highs, but the average price in Nevada remains almost $5 a gallon. That’s the third-highest price in the country and about $1 higher than a year ago.

Democrats are hoping abortion can save them. Their problem is that Nevada’s abortion law hasn’t changed and won’t without a popular voter. Abortion may help them motivate their base. After months of pounding the issue, however, there are no signs that it’s a game changer.

Don’t expect blowouts, and close races can go either way. But as it stands now, Laxalt and Lombardo both have momentum and the best chances of winning come November.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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