If the Democrats want to regain control of the US Senate this November, their easiest path -- by far -- runs through Arizona and Nevada. The conventional wisdom for months has been that those two GOP-held seats represent the opposition's easiest pick-up opportunities in the country this cycle, with a fair amount of public polling bearing that out. If Dems pick off those two races, then hold serve everywhere else, they'd have a thin majority. If Republicans make gains elsewhere (say, North Dakota and Missouri), Chuck Schumer's team would need additional victories in places like Tennessee and Texas. The point is, without Arizona and Nevada, it's an exceptionally steep, if not impossible, climb.
In the Silver State, GOP Sen. Dean Heller was supposed to be a goner. But surveys show him hanging in there against a flawed Democratic nominee. It's basically tied. President Trump narrowly lost the state in 2016, and Heller was one of the few Republicans in borderline races to prevail in 2012. He could pull it off again, but he's the type of vulnerable incumbent who is understandably anxious about the enthusiasm gap's impact on turnout. And what about Arizona? Jeff Flake's seat was looking like a lost cause, with the presumptive Democratic nominee leading handily in polls against all of her hypothetical general election opponents over the summer. She responded by basically going into hiding, apparently trying to run out the clock on a relatively effortless win. But then the strongest Republican crushed her two primary opponents and came out of the general election gate swinging. I've already shown you the following ad, but in case you missed it, this is how you draw a major (and accurate) contrast to help define a race:
Left-leaning "fact checker" Politifact sloppily mangled the facts on this general topic, wrongly claiming that Democrat Kirsten Sinema had only protested the Iraq War. In fact, after 9/11, she was also protesting against the Afghanistan War, a radical and weak stance. The truth is that while Martha McSally was bombing terrorists after September 11, Sinema was attending anti-war demonstrations in a pink tutu. She's since remodeled her imagine into a more moderate Democrat (Sinema and served on a panel together at a conference years ago, and she was generous and nice), but McSally's critique is legitimate. In any case, it's a tough year, but Arizona is still a red state. My guess was that if Republicans nominated McSally, the contest would tighten up pretty considerably. Well, primary voters have done just that, and voila:
Relatedly, the gubernatorial race in the state (which has possible Senate implications, as I explained here), looks like it may be trending solidly in the red direction. Democrats nominated a lefty and the GOP is looking to capitalize:
Another example of a progressive Dem nominee jeopardizing Dem chances in a key swing state.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) September 10, 2018
AZ-GOV poll (Data Orbital): Ducey (R) 49, Garcia (D) 41.
Dem nominee down 8 despite Trump approval at -7 (42/49). Ducey has been seen as vulnerable.https://t.co/XOhIsxIsDU
Then again, nominating left-wingers in moderate states isn't necessarily a ticket to defeat for Democrats this year. I'll leave you with a media fact check of a new anti-Sinema ad, which concludes with a vague equivocation from her campaign:
Perhaps the candidate herself will address it at some point, if she ever decides to actually talk to any journalists.