The state of Nevada, which has risen in prominence for both Republicans and Democrats in presidential cycles, will find itself even more a part of the national conversation in 2016, thanks to the retirement of Harry Reid. An open Senate seat can serve as a bellwether for national fortunes in any election, but perhaps even more so when the presidential race has no incumbent. There’s no better analyst to consult on Nevada politics than Jon Ralston of RalstonReports.com, and earlier today we discussed the impact of the open seat inside and outside of Nevada:
Jon handicaps the Democratic primary, and briefs readers on Reid’s hand-picked successor:
Reid already has anointed ex-Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who wants to run for the U.S. Senate and almost certainly will. (She made herself unavailable Friday and put out a statement that said nothing about anything.)
If she runs, Masto is the favorite. She has an impressive resume, can tap into the Hispanic/female vote and will benefit from the Reid Machine, which will be far from dormant as its eponymous creator will take pride in ensuring his chosen successor takes his place.
Masto is not a dynamic campaigner. She is a careful, close-to-the-vest person who has never been tested in a white-hot crucible like a nationally watched U.S. Senate race. But she is in, barring something unforeseen.
For Republicans, Jon thinks the problem may be an embarrassment of riches:
The Republicans have the opposite problem: Too many potential candidates who may not be deterred by a crowded primary. Some names to consider seriously, albeit some more than others[.]
The problems in Nevada for both parties will only get amplified in the 2016 cycle. As Jon describes it, neither Democrats nor Republicans have party infrastructure as much as its leading officeholders have personal campaign infrastructure. Brian Sandoval’s ground forces won a sweeping victory over Harry Reid’s machine in 2014, although Jon believes that was in part because Reid was so focused on playing defense across a wide swath of Senate races last fall.
Which machine will be ascendant in 2016? All things being equal, Jon thinks Reid’s organization will likely edge the Sandoval forces, but that depends on a number of factors — one being how well Reid can hold it together now that he’s on his way out. That personal-power model usually relies at least in some part on the fear of being on the outside looking in if the person wins. With that possibility removed from the equation, what will that mean for Democrats in Nevada? Stay tuned.
Jon’s also got a new PBS show in Nevada, broadcast live on Livestream as well.