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Democrats Brace for Disappointment in Nevada

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republican Mark Amodei is expected to win today’s special election race against Democrat Kate Marshall (above) in Nevada’s 2nd district. Strategists say the Marshall campaign struggled from the beginning, suffering from an unfocused message, a poor climate for Democrats and early spending by the GOP campaign committee.

Everything went wrong for Kate Marshall in a Nevada special election race in which she needed everything to go right.

All hope for today handing Democrats a second special election upset this year faded long ago. The Democratic state treasurer is likely to come up well short against Mark Amodei, a former state legislator and state GOP chairman, in the race to replace appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) in the 2nd district.

“Everyone is gearing up for some disappointing results, but not unexpected,” a Nevada Democratic strategist said. “We’ve known this for over a month.”

Strategists from both parties who spoke with Roll Call about the reasons for Marshall’s likely loss cited a terrible climate for Democrats, an unfavorable state Supreme Court ruling, poor polling numbers for President Barack Obama, early spending by the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Marshall campaign’s inability to focus its message coupled with a slow pace out of the gate.

The race’s lack of competitiveness is still a blow to the party going into 2012, especially because the GOP is poised for an upset today in New York, making the Republicans’ House edge one stronger.

The Nevada contest played out in the backyard of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose vaunted Nevada Democratic Party machine opted not to engage its paid turnout effort for a campaign it felt could not seal the deal.

The Reid machine chose instead to conserve its resources for competitive Senate and presidential elections in the state next year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other outside Democratic groups also could not justify spending money on a race not moving in their direction and for a seat a Democrat has never held.

Party strategists’ long-held belief that a Marshall win was all but impossible was validated by the paltry Democratic early-voting figures that indicated a lack of energy in a district with a 31,000 voter registration advantage for Republicans. Democratic turnout even trailed widely in Washoe County, which a Democrat must carry to win.

Further evidence came Monday in an autodial poll by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, which found Amodei leading by 13 points and only three-fourths of Democrats saying they would vote for Marshall.

Amodei media consultant Rob Stutzman said by putting big money in early, the NRCC, which spent $600,000 on the race, built a defense wall that kept the DCCC and other groups from entering the fray. The NRCC’s cutting ads tied Marshall to Obama and Reid while Marshall was doing her best to avoid promoting her party affiliation.

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