Home>Congress>Tuesday’s Elections Sound Dire Alarm Bells in Nevada

Former Vice President Joe Biden at the Fourth of July Iowa Cubs game at Principal Park in Des Moines, Iowa, July 4, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Tuesday’s Elections Sound Dire Alarm Bells in Nevada

Dem strategists tell Globe that ’22 candidates should heed ’21 warnings

By Ken Kurson, November 4, 2021 2:24 pm

Last week, The Nevada Globe wrote that Democrats in the state have begun to fret about the effects Joe Biden‘s low approval numbers would have on their own races. Tuesday’s election prove that worry is well founded.

Obviously, elections are multi-faceted events. And things to change in a week, let alone a year. So it’s not time for Democrats to panic. Yet.

But the trend line couldn’t be more clear: Democrats will have a hard time prevailing locally if Biden’s numbers remain underwater.

One Democratic strategist with close ties to the Senate leadership and the White House told The Nevada Globe in an interview today, “If I am in a purple district right now as a Republican I’m feeling really good and as a Democrat I’m feeling really really worried. There are so few rising stars in the party, but many of the ones they do have are in purple districts in purple states. If 2022 is anything like 2021 it could, just like 2010 and 2014, wipe out a whole class of rising stars.”

Speaking specifically of Nevada, this strategist—who asked to remain unnamed because of ongoing business relationships with Democratic leaders—discussed Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. “Cortez Masto fits that mold [of a rising star] with an increasing voice in the party. She’s been careful not to get too into partisan politics or cable news or the DC noise machine. She’s painting herself as a worker for Nevada. But the results in 2021 indicate 2022 will be tough for Cortez Masto and the same goes for Sen. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire. And certainly picking up seats in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania was always going to be challenging but now will be … hard.”

This strategist expressed surprise over Cortez Masto’s recent attempts to nationalize the race, as evidenced by her Twitter feed’s consistent references to the dangers of Mitch McConnell and referring to Adam Laxalt as her “Trump supported opponent.”

“If I were advising Senator Cortez Masto, I would tell her that hiring junior staff to run your Twitter feed might play really well with cable news bookers but it does not play well with voters you need to persuade or re-persuade in a purple state. I think that Terry McAuliffe will tell you the DC Democrats coming in and attempting to nationalize this race did not serve him well. Right now, Democrats in Washington are not popular and have not got anything done.”

One instructive exercise is to measure the electorate’s preference attitude toward Biden in 2020 and compare it to the performance of the Democrat in Tuesday’s election.

Will Biden’s struggles in the polls spell bad news for Gov. Sisolak in 2022? (Photo: nv.gov)

In 2020, Joe Biden won Virginia by 54.1 to 44 — just over 10 points. On Tuesday, Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin beat former Gov. Terry McAuliffe by 50.9 to 48.4— 2.5 points. That’s a 12.6-point swing for the Republicans.

In New Jersey, where the Democratic incumbent held on, the swing was even more stark. Joe Biden won the state or year ago by 16 points. Phil Murphy squeaked by with about half a point. That’s a 15.5 point swing.

The polling firm Civiqs asks the question, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?” of over 120,000 Americans from all states on a rolling basis. In November 2021, Biden’s numbers in Virginia stood at 51% who disapprove vs 38 who approve. That means a net of minus 13 —a stark turnaround from a year earlier, when he won by over 10 points. That change in sentiment obviously propelled Youngkin to victory.

In New Jersey, Biden has managed to remain slightly above water—the president stands at 46 approve/44 disapprove, for a +2 approval. That undoubtedly played a role in allowing Murphy to squeak through what was forecast to be an easy election.

But in Nevada, the numbers for Biden look way worse than in Virginia or New Jersey.

According to Civiqs, Biden’s approval in the state is -56 disapproval vs 35 approval, which is a net of -21. If McAuliffe couldn’t overcome a -13, Team Sisolak has got to be looking at a -21 with dread, if not outright surrender. Same for Catherine Cortez Masto and the three Democratic Representatives.

Again, a year is an eternity in American politics. Fortunes change, and the electoral picture could very well brighten for Biden and for Nevada Democrats. However, one must not dismiss the power of momentum. With the wind at their backs, Republicans such as Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt and gubernatorial hopefuls Dean Heller and Joe Lombardo and the congressional challengers as well will have an easier time raising the funds they need to be competitive against incumbents. Especially in the case of Cortez Masto, where a first Senate defense is always the toughest, especially when it occurs during the midterm elections of a same-party president, the dynamics of this race have already been altered by Tuesday’s results.

Furthermore, it would be a mistake for Nevada Dems to dismiss the results as confined to the far-away states of Virginia and New Jersey. In fact, evidence was overwhelming for the strength of Republican candidates in the face of Biden‘s unpopularity. Much closer to home, as our sister publication California Globe detailed, the deep blue town of Santa Barbara elected a non-Democrat as mayor to break it’s 7-0 progressive monopoly. And in Seattle — Seattle! —the voters elected a Republican city attorney.

According to the New York Times, the previous reaction against a president whose numbers had tanked was presaged in Virginia and then proved disastrous for Democrats nationwide: “The last time a Republican won the Virginia governorship, in 2009, the party’s nominee rode a backlash against President Barack Obama to a 17-point victory, carrying densely populated suburbs like Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. That victory presaged a Republican wave the following year that turned over control of the House to the G.O.P. and stymied Mr. Obama for the balance of his time in office.”

Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist who steered Murphy to a 16-point victory in 2017 but was not involved in his shocking near loss on Tuesday, put it bluntly in an interview with the Globe.

“When you spend all of your time talking about Donald Trump, a man who is no longer in office and has nothing to do with fixing your potholes or paving your roads or making college more affordable for your kids, it becomes a missed opportunity to talk to voters about what they really want to hear about.”

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