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Trail Mix: Spring Into Our First (Post-Caucus) 2020 Election Forecast

Spring has sprung! OK, so it may not officially be spring on our calendar yet, but the cherry blossom trees are blooming, the birds are singing, and the presidential candidates are finally giving us some respite, so let’s jump into our brand new 2020 election forecast.

Before we proceed, I might as well give a spoiler alert: I see blue people (again).

NV-Pres: Nevada’s still feeling the blues.
NV-Pres 2016: Clinton (D) 47.9%, Trump (R) 45.5% 
NV-Sen 2018: Rosen (D) 50.4%, Heller (R) 45.4%
February 2020 Voter Registration: 38.3% D (Democratic), 32.9% R (Republican), 22.6% NP (Nonpartisan) 
Joe Biden
Photo by Andrew Davey

So far, we haven’t seen a whole lot of polling data on Nevada. But from the little we have seen thus far, both former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have mostly held leads over President Donald Trump. Most notably, a recent R-J poll of Nevada Nonpartisan voters showed Biden and Sanders running ahead of Trump. 

If Nonpartisans actually do break for Democrats this year like they did in 2018, then it’s pretty much “Game Over” for Republicans in the Silver State. Last week, the Secretary of State’s office released new voter registration numbers showing Democrats holding a 5.44% lead (38.34%-32.90%) over Republicans. At this point in 2016, Democrats held a 3.88% (39.46%-35.58%) statewide registration lead.

Bernie Sanders
Photo by Andrew Davey

Unless Republicans reverse this trend, turn out far more of their voters than Democrats turn out theirs, or win over more Democratic crossover votes than Democrats win over Republican crossover votes, it’s hard not to interpret these developments as anything but good for Democrats. While Democrats should not take Nevada for granted just yet, I’m starting Nevada’s presidential general election as Likely Democratic. As long as Biden and Sanders continue to beat Trump nationally (see CNN and Quinnipiac for the most recent examples), I don’t see how either loses to Trump here in Nevada.

NV-03: Western and southern Las Vegas Valley suburbs
NV-Pres 2016: Clinton (D) 46.5%, Trump (R) 47.5%
NV-Sen 2018: Rosen (D) 50.4%, Heller (R) 45.9%
February 2020 Voter Registration: 36.7% D, 33.8% R, 23.6% NP
Photo by Andrew Davey

In 2018, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) cruised to a surprisingly large victory over perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian (R) in what’s typically been a hard-fought suburban swing district that spans from Laughlin to Old Henderson to Summerlin. As a result, I’m less surprised that Lee’s cruising again against an underwhelming field of Republican challengers.

Seriously, this is the cream of the GOP crop: “The Accidental Treasurer” (Dan Schwartz) who lost in 2018 after spending much of his one term fighting with nearly everyone (even his fellow Republicans), a former WWE wrestler (Dan Rodimer) who’s best known for his fights outside the ring, and an actor and “TV personality” (Mindy Robinson) whose slogan is “Red, White, and F— You” and most recently made news with her Twitter war with Cardi B.

Seriously, if this is the best Nevada Republicans have to offer, Rep. Susie Lee is in a great position for reelection. While Trump did ever so narrowly carry NV-03 in 2016, I doubt he can pull it off again in 2020 since he and his fellow Republicans continue to struggle in increasingly diverse and college-educated suburban communities across the country. For these reasons, I’m initially placing NV-03 in the Likely Democratic column and reserving the right to change depending on whether Republicans can clean up on Aisle Three (or get wiped off the floor by Susie Lee).

NV-04: North Las Vegas to Summerlin (Las Vegas), and Pahrump to Yerington to Ely 
NV-Pres 2016: Clinton (D) 49.5%, Trump (R) 44.6%
NV-Sen 2018: Rosen (D) 52.0%, Heller (R) 43.5%
February 2020 Voter Registration: 40.8% D, 31.4% R, 21.9% NP
Photo by Andrew Davey

Like NV-03, Republicans also have a lackluster field in NV-04. It’s wild to think that former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Bunkerville) pulled off an epic upset over Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) in 2014, only for Hardy to lose in 2016, Horsford to return to office in 2018, and Horsford to potentially have the easiest path to reelection any Democrat has had since Nevada first gained this Congressional seat after the 2010 Census.

Seriously, this is the cream of the GOP crop: A former Assembly Member (Jim Marchant [R-Las Vegas]) best known for opposing “pink tax” repeal and losing to Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas) in 2018 (more on her and the Nevada Legislature tomorrow!), a Nye County Commissioner (Leo Blundo) who was charged with a misdemeanor for hitting a scooter with his SUV and failing to leave contact information in 2016, a former Miss Nevada (Lisa Song Sutton), and a bunch of “Some Dudes”. 

Photo by Andrew Davey

While Hardy narrowly prevailed in 2014, Horsford defeated him by a heftier 8.2% margin in 2018. And unless one of the Republicans somehow expands the GOP’s appeal to a wider audience (or Trump somehow turns Nevada red this year – again, unlikely), Horsford is on track to win by at least that much again. For now, I’m also placing NV-04 in the Likely Democratic column and waiting to see if any of these Republicans can lead the party out of the depths of Yucca Mountain and into the (non-radioactive?) light.

For now, I’m placing NV-01 (home to Rep. Dina Titus [D-Las Vegas]) and NV-02 (home to Rep. Mark Amodei [R-Carson City) as Safe Democratic for the former (NV-01) and Safe Republican for the latter (NV-02) unless and until I see any evidence either is remotely competitive. Otherwise, go ahead and gnaw on this while I work on a brand new 2020 Nevada Legislature election forecast for you. Enjoy!

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