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Early Voting in Nevada Makes Democrats Optimistic

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
A poll released Thursday showed appointed Sen. Dean Heller (right) leading Rep. Shelley Berkley for Nevada's Senate seat.

To some surprise, the early voting pace had not tapered off much from the burst as voting kicked off on Saturday. Not counting Sunday, when early voting locations were closed in all but three counties, daily turnout numbers ranged from almost 50,000 on Saturday to nearly 46,000 on Wednesday.

Berkley and the Democrats running in the 3rd and 4th Congressional districts will clearly benefit from the turnout operation put in place by Reid’s state party and the Obama campaign’s state operation. The question now is whether that’s enough to knock off two Republican incumbents — Heller and Rep. Joe Heck (R) — and win the new district added in reapportionment.

Strategists from both parties said the Senate race specifically has more complications that make predicting it based off early voting numbers unreliable. “It’s a little harder to draft off of the president or off of the party when that race has had 2,000 or 3,000 points a week of television,” Vassiliadis said. “It’s not as if there’s going to be a lot of blind voting as there may be down-ticket.”

The turnout obviously helps her, he added, “But ultimately there is a lot of familiarity with Shelley and Dean.”

Berkley has made a point all cycle to introduce herself to voters in Reno’s Washoe County, which is far removed from her House district in Las Vegas. That’s in contrast to Heller, who is from Carson City in the north but won three statewide elections as secretary of state, represented the largest Congressional district in the country by area for more than four years and has represented the entire state in the Senate for more than a year.

“He is going to over-perform what normal Republicans do in Clark County,” Erwin said. “If Heller wins Washoe County and holds his own in Clark County, he wins this. You start putting the math together — it works out to be a Heller advantage.”

Strategists from both parties said state Speaker John Oceguera (D) will need a significant turnout boost in the 3rd district, which includes much of the Las Vegas suburbs. He’s taking on Heck in a district that’s seen significant ad buys from both national parties in the last two weeks.

“There’s no question that Oceguera has his work cut out for him,” Nevada-based Democratic consultant Dan Hart said.

The 4th district encompasses parts of Clark County, including North Las Vegas, and parts or all of six rural counties. State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D) has found himself in a much closer race than anticipated against businessman and frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian (R). Democrats still expect Horsford to pull it out.

The Senate race is a far tougher call. The north-south divide is critical in this race, former Nevada GOP Executive Director Dan Burdish said, and what happens in the presidential race is “immaterial” to the Senate outcome.

“Despite the fact that Democrats may get a lot of turnout in Washoe County, they tend to vote Republican if the Democratic candidate is from Clark County,” he said. “And that is just a fact of life.”

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