Special Election Update: NV-02

Posted: Jun 28, 2011 1:23 PM

For conservatives seeking to avenge Harry Reid's improbable political survival last fall, the special election in Nevada's second Congressional District is shaping up as a significant proxy fight against the Senate Majority Leader. When scandal-plagued Sen. John Ensign resigned earlier this year, Rep. Dean Heller was elevated to the upper chamber by Nevada's Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval.  This move was a political no-brainer: It kept the seat in Republican hands, and instantaneously granted Heller -- who was planning to run for the Senate anyway -- the gift of incumbency, and all the inherent benefits therein (name recognition, fundraising advantages, franking, etc).

But the move also left NV-02 vacant, and Democrats are mounting a spirited play to pick up the seat.  As the fight enters its early stages, Harry Reid's fingerprints are everywhere:

If Nevada's Supreme Court decided (sic) that the parties will select the candidates, it will be a race between Republican Mark Amodei of Carson City and Democrat Kate Marshall of Reno.  Marshall, the state treasurer, easily won her party's nomination Saturday at its Central Committee meeting at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. Amodei, a former state senator and the former GOP chairman, did the same last Saturday at the GOP Central Committee meeting in Sparks.

Vucanovich's concern is focused on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The most powerful Democrat in the U.S. Senate has already pledged his support for Marshall, helping her raise $92,379 so far, according to Marshall's campaign. Amodei's war chest hovers around $57,410, his campaign said.

If Marshall becomes the first Democrat to represent the 2nd District, Reid will play a major part, a political expert said."What Harry Reid has repeatedly demonstrated is that he has juice. Not only can he raise a phenomenal amount of money for his own campaign, his star power also brings those types of contributions to the people he endorses," said Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College.

As Democrats are wont to do when they're trolling for votes, Marshall is positioning herself as -- you guessed it -- a fiscal conservative:

Marshall has already stepped away from Democratic President Barack Obama's health care policies, saying the Democratic commander-in-chief has not done enough in creating jobs."Don't you agree with me that we need more jobs in this state with a 12.5 (percent) unemployment rate?" Marshall said. "Don't you agree with me when you talk to anybody, that health care costs are rising? So we need to ask the question: What do we need to do? We need to go further to make sure the health care bill works because we need to lower those costs."

Republicans hold a distinct registration advantage in the district, but strange things can happen in Nevada politics.  Remember, Harry Reid had a 55 percent disapproval rating among Nevadans on the day he beat Sharron Angle by a healthy margin.  As the article states, Reid is raising lots of cash for his hand-picked candidate, and other national Democrats are salivating over the possibility of picking off another Republican-leaning seat in a special election.  Both parties view this race as a major indicator of voter enthusiasm and momentum heading into 2012, and Republicans hope Reid's conspicuous support for Marshall will backfire.  "Harry Reid's name might as well be on the ballot at this point [in NV-02]," a GOP strategist familiar with the race tells me.  The Amodei campaign is also looking to exploit Reid's meddling in the contest:

"I am thrilled that Harry Reid is squiring her around Washington and that Harry sent a letter out, saying this is my person," Amodei said.

Meanwhile, Amodei has a -- shall we say -- less-than-subtle TV ad on the air, envisioning what a China-dominated world might look like if the US continues to spend itself into oblivion:

China currently holds roughly one-fourth of foreign-held US debt, which is a legitimate concern, considering China's emerging role as our greatest global strategic adversary.  These numbers are especially troubling when one considers the indisputable facts about our spending trajectory, as (accurately!) described by President Obama in April:

By 2025, the amount of taxes we currently pay will only be enough to finance our health care programs, Social Security, and the interest we owe on our debt.  That’s it.  Every other national priority – education, transportation, even national security – will have to be paid for with borrowed money.

Amodei's spot may be a tad heavy-handed (the Chinese troops high-stepping past the Capitol is a bit much), but it encapsulates a real and justifiable fear that many Americans harbor.  Citizens Against Government Waste produced a slick spot with a similar spin a few months back:

As noted above, it's not quite accurate to suggest that China owns "most" of our debt (at least for now), but the crux of the ad -- the urgent need to get our fiscal house in order -- is undeniable.  In fact, it's a helpful reminder of why Republicans must stand tall in the debt ceiling negotiations.