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Dean Heller, the incumbent Senator from Nevada, has been called the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate. Donald Trump lost the state of Nevada to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Heller is fending off a strong challenge from Jacky Rosen, a first-term congresswoman from Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District. You might think this would be a mix that the Heller campaign would want Trump to stay away from, but the President held a rally with Heller last week to emphasize his support for the incumbent.

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NPR offers a detailed report on the race as it shapes up in the Silver State:

The Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller has faced tight races before but never lost an election. He’s now in the fight of his career to keep his Senate seat in a blue-trending state that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

“Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ll win,” Heller told reporters last week in Reno.

To win, he’s performing political acrobatics, aligning himself with President Donald Trump while trying to keep his distance from the scandals surrounding the president.

“Eighty percent of what this president has done has been very, very good, very positive,” Heller said. He listed the economy, low unemployment, jobs and trade among the president’s accomplishments.

“The other 20 percent … he has a reality show. I get it. It’s a reality show,” the senator said.

He’s formed an alliance with Trump after drawing the president’s ire last year when he held up Republican efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Heller now avoids criticizing Trump and refuses to comment on his tweets, saying if he did, it would be “a full-time job and I already have one.”

That’s what we know about Heller’s relationship to the President, but what about his challenger? Fox News reports on Rosen’s background and how she intends to bridge the partisan divide to win in Nevada:

Rep. Jacky Rosen is a first-term congresswoman, having only been elected in 2016. But Democrats are banking on her as an option to flip control of the Senate back to them.

A former synagogue leader, Rosen is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus and touts her efforts for bipartisanship in Congress on her campaign website.

“I’m going to try to give people someone to vote for instead of something to vote against,” she previously told Politico, adding, “I believe I’m going to win this race.”

Rosen has lived in Nevada for almost 40 years and was the first person in her family to graduate from college, according to her campaign website. To do that, she was a waitress and continued to work weekends at banquets when she began her career as a software developer.

Rosen has been endorsed by former President Barack Obama and EMILY’s List, a pro-choice organization.

Nevada is sort of a purple-ish red state. Democrats tend to win by running as moderates, and the Republicans who win aren’t typically very conservative. It’s not a very partisan state so elections tend to be rather close and mostly swing based on candidate credentials and sometimes issues that are of exclusive importance to western states, like the constant battle between western states and the Federal Government over land control.

As far as approval goes, Nevada isn’t horrible for Trump, he’s just under 50% approval which is probably why the Heller campaign thinks the President can help turn out the Republican base.

Polls

Polling shows a statistical tie with both candidates taking the lead over the past couple of months:

Nevada Senate 2018 Heller vs Rosen Polls

The polling probably won’t change much between now and Election Day unless voters generally decide they want to dump Heller, in which case we should see Rosen steadily pick up a few points on average.

Issues

What are the issues defining this race? As with most of the Senate races this year, the campaigns have become nationalized usually fighting over whatever the President is doing. However, voters will get their chance to learn more with a debate scheduled for October 19, as reported by the Nevada Appeal:

Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and Democrat U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen have finally agreed to a debate on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas.

The debate on Oct. 19 will be aired statewide on CBS affiliates and Univision.

“After President Trump called her out last week for refusing to debate Dean Heller, today Jacky Rosen finally accepted a debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 19,” the Heller campaign stated in a released statemen

There is also talk of a debate before the 19th, possibly on October 8 in Reno, but those details are still being worked out by the campaigns. As of now, the only firm scheduled debate is October 19 in Las Vegas.

The campaigns, in the meantime, have sparred over the tax cut package signed by President Trump last year. Rosen, as a Congresswoman, voted against the bill, while Heller supports it, as reported by The Hill:

The war over President Trump’s tax law is playing out in the Nevada Senate race, where a House Democrat who voted against the measure is challenging the only GOP member of the Senate’s tax-writing committee running for reelection this year.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), also the only Republican senator up for reelection in a state Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, has been touting the work he did on the tax law and the strong economy that he links to the measure.

“Because of the tax cut we wrote and passed, small business optimism is surging,” he tweeted in late August.

But Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) sees it as a winning issue for herself as she seeks to unseat Heller. Rosen argues the law helps wealthy individuals and corporations rather than the middle class.

Democrats and Nevada political observers claim Heller talks about the tax law less than he did right after it was enacted, which they see as a sign Republicans are on the defense.

“There’s a difference between Dean Heller and me on taxes,” Rosen said in an ad her campaign recently released. “I support fiscally responsible middle-class tax cuts. Dean Heller voted for the new tax law that gives almost all the benefits to the richest 1 percent and big corporations.”

Nevada is a tough state for Republican Senators, and the fact that Heller is running neck-and-neck with his challenger doesn’t bode well for an incumbent. This is a seat that Democrats are counting on in their quest to flip the Senate. So far, Rosen is in good shape but there are many weeks left in this campaign and voters will be paying more and more attention as we get closer to November 6.

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Filed in: 2018 Midterms Tagged in:
Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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