Dean Heller was the only Republican incumbent in the Senate up for reelection this year in a state that Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election. And it turns out that voters in his state still tilt blue, handing the Senate race to his Democratic opponent Jacky Rosen.
News outlets called the race for Rosen in the wee hours of the morning — after a delay in releasing results due to voters still waiting in long lines at polling places. As of this morning, with most precincts reporting, the Democratic congresswoman led Heller by five points, ahead 50–45 percent. Rosen has just finished her first term representing Nevada’s third congressional district, and some observers suggested she wouldn’t have the name necessary name recognition to mount a successful challenge to the Republican incumbent.
Unlike in his last election, Heller was unable to find a way to eke out a last-minute victory. In 2012, Heller ran ahead of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, managing a one-point win over his Democratic opponent despite the fact that Barack Obama beat Romney in the state by almost seven points. It was Heller’s first run at a full term in the Senate; he was appointed to the seat in 2011 after the resignation of John Ensign.
But this year, Heller’s luck ran out. Polling in the race consistently indicated that it’d be a tossup, and conventional wisdom seemed to be that Clinton’s success in Nevada in 2016 would bode well for Rosen’s chances. That turned out to be the case, and Heller’s standard Republican voting record and lack of fireworks in the Senate wasn’t enough to save him.
Rosen’s victory isn’t necessarily a sign that Nevada voters have entirely rejected the GOP agenda and platform, or that the Trump presidency has alienated moderates from the Republican party entirely. Her win does, however, suggest that among swing voters in purple states such as Nevada, the president’s first two years have pushed many in the middle further away from the right.