The Biggest Questions in Nevada’s Crucial Senate Race

Dissatisfaction with President Trump among Nevada voters has not had quite the ripple effect Democrats are hoping for in the state’s highly competitive Senate race, and turnout among Hispanics for that contest in November remains a key question for the party, according to results in a New York Times/Siena College poll this week.

Roughly as many Nevadans approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance as disapprove, and they are also about evenly split on the Senate candidates. In the phone survey of more than 640 registered Nevada voters, which had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points, Senator Dean Heller held a slight edge over his Democratic challenger, Representative Jacky Rosen.

Mr. Heller is considered the Republicans’ most endangered incumbent, in a year when his party can only afford to lose one seat and still retain its control of the Senate.

“It’s still anybody’s guess,” Jon Ralston, a prominent political analyst in Nevada and the editor of The Nevada Independent, said in an email about the Senate race.

Turnout, especially among nonwhite voters, is a big question for Democrats, who are particularly relying on getting a huge margin of support from Hispanic voters. But in an encouraging sign for Republicans, nearly 40 percent of Hispanics said they would vote for Mr. Heller compared with 52 percent for Ms. Rosen, according to the poll. Only 45 percent of registered Hispanic voters say they were “almost certain to vote,” compared with 63 percent of white voters, and 13 percent of Hispanic registered voters said they were “not at all likely to vote.”

Democrats are also hoping that Ms. Rosen will benefit from enthusiasm among female voters who are highly energized this year and may want more women elected to Congress. But among female voters, Ms. Rosen holds a razor-thin advantage that is well within the poll’s margin of error.

Nevada’s electorate is divided between heavily Republican rural areas in the north, where Mr. Heller draws his strength, and a growing Democratic population around Las Vegas in the south. The state remains deeply purple: Hillary Clinton carried it by about two points in 2016 but it has not had a Democratic governor since 1999. In other recent opinion polls, voters cite the economy, immigration and health care as top issues.

Yet the race does not have the kind of hot-button issues or big, captivating personalities of some other prominent Senate and House races this year. More measured than provocative, Ms. Rosen, a first-term congresswoman and former synagogue president, has not staked out any extreme positions on issues that have energized the left. Her favorability rating is also problematic, with 36 percent saying they view her favorably and 43 percent saying they view her unfavorably, while 21 percent don’t have an opinion, according to the poll.

Mr. Heller, a longtime politician in the state, is more well-known but has also run a relatively staid campaign. Nevadans are about evenly split on his favorability and unfavorability ratings.

Even the bitterly partisan confirmation process for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — which roared into prominence in other competitive Senate races — did not rise to much of a talking point for either candidate until after Mr. Kavanaugh was confirmed. On Saturday, Mr. Heller criticized how Democrats had handled the process, suggesting it would galvanize his Republican base.

“Democrats think political games and smears will win them votes, but it only fuels our momentum,” he wrote.

In its own statement, the Rosen campaign called Mr. Heller “out of touch with Nevadans” and warned that voters would “hold Senator Heller accountable for becoming just another rubber stamp for President Trump’s nominees and his reckless agenda in Washington.”

Democrats say Mr. Heller has weaknesses, including his recent decision to align himself with President Trump.

But Mr. Heller has never lost a race, and Republicans across the country are hopeful that the Kavanaugh issue will be the energizing force the party needed to spur voters to the polls.

Other recent polling also shows a very close race. A recent NBC News/Marist Poll, for instance, gave the edge to Mr. Heller, and one from CNN had Ms. Rosen slightly ahead.

Nate Cohn contributed reporting.

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