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Primary Matters: What’s About to Happen in Nevada, and Why Does It Matter?

So we’ll finally have some answers. Nevadans have mostly voted in the primary, with just one more day of voting happening tomorrow. With a heated race to become Nevada’s next Governor and several Congressional seats on the line, there’s a whole lot riding on tomorrow’s results. Here’s the full rundown on what to watch when the numbers start trickling in.

Turn out for what?
Photo by Andrew Davey

We saw this materialize in early voting turnout, where Democrats manage to slightly outperform voter registration and post a total 5.8% lead upon the close of early voting last Friday. This lead may narrow tomorrow, as the traditional Election Day electorate tends to skew more Republican. Still, this kind of turnout is at least a sign that Democratic enthusiasm is picking up from the historic lows of 2014.

However, it’s also not the kind of dramatic Democratic surge seen in some other states that gets activists excited about a coming “Blue Wave”. As such, Republicans can at least take hope that they’re not doomed to a 2014-in-reverse wipeout just yet, while Democrats should see this as a reminder that they can’t just wish and hope and pray for a “Blue Wave” without putting in the work necessary to build it.

Did Hillary Clinton just cancel the last nine months?

Over the weekend, KLAS/8 News Now political guru Steve Sebelius broke the news of a Chris Giunchigliani campaign robocall featuring none other than former First Lady, former U.S. Secretary of State, and 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. It’s definitely a game-changer, as it’s certainly something that can grab the attention of Democratic primary voters, possibly even some who have already been inclined to vote for Steve Sisolak but weren’t 100% committed just yet.

But is this too little, too late? Seriously, that’s what I’m wondering right now. If this Clinton endorsement had occurred six months ago, three months ago, or even one month ago, it definitely would have packed more punch in swaying more Democrats to Giunchigliani’s side. But to do it now, after the vast majority of ballots have probably already been cast? I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve Sisolak’s campaign isn’t shaking at the boots right now, but rather breathing a huge sigh of relief that this Clinton endorsement is coming so damned late.

Giunchigliani must be hoping that the Democratic Election Day voter pool will be numerically and proportionally higher than it typically is for a lower-turnout primary. Of course, she can also benefit from solid margins of victory in the Reno region and Rural Nevada, where she does seem to be getting a better reception than Sisolak. Though she does seem to be ending this campaign on a high note, I agree with Jon Ralston that Sisolak probably still has the edge, even if it’s looking less like a sure thing and more like a close call.

If Chris Giunchigliani pulls off an epic upset tomorrow night, she doesn’t just have Hillary Clinton to thank, but also the many progressive women (and men) who’ve rallied to her side when no one else wanted to believe. If Steve Sisolak wins by a bigger margin than expected, he can thank party elders Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) for inoculating him enough against the progressive angst that’s now fueling Giunchigliani’s last-minute surge.

How Laxalt can lose, even if he wins
Photo by Andrew Davey

On one hand, this brutal Democratic primary has provided some much needed breathing room for Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). But on the other hand, Laxalt needs some breathing room right now. Really, he will need all the help Sheldon Adelson can muster once the gathering storm starts heading Laxalt’s way.

If it weren’t for the Giunchigliani v. Sisolak slug fest, Laxalt’s appalling lack of substance and penchant for scandal would probably be generating more headlines. Between his fear of a mere debate, his undying love for the still unpopular President Donald Trump, his failure to explain his plan to undo the outgoing Republican Governor’s legacy, and his bizarre silence on the Storey County Sheriff facing several charges of sexual misconduct (who just so happens to support Laxalt), Laxalt has done a great job of explaining to Nevada voters why they should not put him in the Governor’s Mansion this fall. Still, it will be up to Democrats to call attention to all this when Laxalt and Adelson inevitably smear Vaseline on the camera lens and try their best to maintain a “soft focus” on Laxalt.

In the meantime, let’s not forget that there are other Republicans running for Governor. If Laxalt somehow manages to whimper to an underwhelming finish (let’s say, less than 70% of the vote) tomorrow, we’ll know that even a good amount of Republicans also have their doubts about him. And if the combined Republican vote falls short of the combined Democratic vote even after the Election Day votes are tallied, that’s another sign of trouble for Adelson’s anointed one.

And then, there’s everything else
Photo by Andrew Davey

Though our U.S. Senate race has already been attracting national attention, Dean Heller (R) and Jacky Rosen (D) have nothing to worry about in their respective primaries. Same goes for the 3rd Congressional District (NV-03), where I’ll be shocked if the general election matchup does not end up being Susie Lee (D) v. Danny Tarkanian (R). And in the 1st (NV-01) and 2nd (NV-02) Congressional Districts, the general election is probably also a foregone conclusion.

Photo by Andrew Davey

When it comes to the federal level races, the only element of surprise seems to lie in the 4th Congressional District (NV-04), where Democrats have a crowded primary in the wake of Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s (D-Las Vegas) scandalous political demise. Former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) looks favored to reclaim his old job, but a dedicated base of support for State Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) and a surge in grassroots progressive enthusiasm for health care activist Amy Vilela (D) are keeping us on our toes. Any of the Democrats will start as at least a slight favorite over former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Bunkerville) in the general election, though the fuller contours of race may change dramatically depending on how this Democratic primary shakes out.

And that’s all I know. If you haven’t voted yet, check here for information on how to do so tomorrow. Stay tuned for tomorrow night, as I’ll probably chime in as the results come in. Happy voting!

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