Sensing an upset, conservative group ups ante against Horsford

Republican Assemblyman Cresent Hardy is getting some high-powered, big money help in his uphill battle to defeat freshman U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford.

Crossroads GPS, a conservative group, said Tuesday it has bought $820,000 worth of TV time for ads to start airing today and run through Election Day on Nov. 4. A source familiar with the ad buy said it is aimed at Horsford, who represents the 4th Congressional District.

Paul Lindsay, communications director for Crossroads GPS, confirmed the group’s eleventh-hour spending plans for the campaign, which could be a game-changer, but offered no details.

“We have placed a buy in the Las Vegas media market and have an important message to communicate,” Lindsay said.

In the GPS ad, Crossroads links Horsford to President Barack Obama, whose approval rating by Americans is at an all-time low, according to recent polls.

“Horsford’s gone the extra mile for Barack Obama, voting with Obama nearly 90 percent of the time — to keep Obamacare (and) its billions in Medicare cuts, for Obama’s policies that cost jobs and hurt our economy,” the narrator of the 30-second TV spot says. “Steven Horsford has already gone Washington.”

In fact, Horsford is a longtime Obama loyalist, serving as co-chair of his presidential campaign in Nevada in 2008.

Crossroad GPS was co-founded by GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. It is a 501(c)(4) organization, which means it does not have to reveal its donors. The group is associated with American Crossroads, which does report where its money comes from.

The infusion of cash and airing of ads during the two-week early voting period could put Hardy within striking distance of Horsford, giving him a chance to pull off an upset.

Until now, the Democrat had out-raised Hardy and appeared headed for a comfortable re-election in the district, which leans Democratic thanks to Clark County, where 80 percent of the district’s voters live. The vast district also covers six rural counties, where Hardy largely has the advantage.

In the most recent campaign finance reports, Horsford reported raising $274,000 since June and had $442,000 cash on hand. In comparison, Hardy raised $90,959 and had $38,124 still in the bank. But he also reported $31,405 in debt, including a $1,400 loan to himself.

Crossroad GPS didn’t say why it’s riding to Hardy’s rescue, but early voting trends this election heavily favor Republicans — a reversal from past years — and points to a potential wave giving the GOP a chance to sweep key competitive seats.

Statewide, Democrats have a 62,000 registered-voter advantage over Republicans, but early voting numbers show Democrats aren’t going to the polls in healthy numbers, yet.

As of Monday night, 26,668 Republicans have cast ballot, or 46 percent of all ballots cast since Saturday. Democrats have cast 21,397 ballots, or 37 percent. Nonpartisan and minor-party voters have cast 9,325 ballots, or 16 percent. But Democrats make up 40 percent of the electorate and Republicans 35 percent — meaning Democrats are underperforming their voter registration by three points and Republicans are over-performing by 11 points.

The Hardy campaign wouldn’t comment on the Crossroads GPS ad buy. The campaign isn’t allowed to coordinate with outside organizations. But Hardy’s campaign said it was pleased by the early voting numbers.

“We’ve always thought this has the potential to be a close race, and now the numbers show this,” campaign spokesman Scott Scheid said. “We’ve got a candidate who’s out working really hard, knocking on doors every day and making early voting calls.”

Asked if the Crossroads GPS help could be a game-changer, Scheid said, “I think outside groups are probably seeing this as a real opportunity when turnout is so much higher than registration.”

“This year is shaping up to be a better year than 2002,” Scheid added.

In 2002, then-Gov. Kenny Guinn won re-election in a landslide, the GOP swept all five state constitutional offices and won the new 3rd Congressional District.

This year, GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, too, is expected to handily win re-election as the Democratic Party put up no strong candidate, leaving it to little-known Bob Goodman, 80, to challenge him. Goodman lost to “none of these candidates in the June 10 primary. Other state races are close, including the attorney general and secretary of state contests.

Horsford said the dark money group’s effort will fail, just as it did in 2012 when Karl Rove’s organization got involved in Nevada races, including the newly carved out 4th Congressional District, which covers the southern half of the state.

“If Karl Rove wants to buy a seat, he is going to have to go through me and the 700,000 people I represent,” Horsford said in a statement. “I am not going to be quiet about calling out his corrosive influence on our democratic institutions.

“I have faith and confidence in the voters of Nevada’s 4th District,” Horsford added. “They saw through Karl Rove’s misleading campaign in 2012, and they will not be fooled by a last-minute, million-dollar, out-of-state shadowy campaign.”

Despite the GOP excitement, the Nevada Democratic Party is known for its successful get-out-the-vote tactics, which include offering free rides to voters.

Early voting began Saturday and will end on Oct. 31, several days before Nov. 4.

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