The Corner

Nevada: A Bright Spot?

Holman Jenkins Jr. in the Wall Street Journal’s “Political Diary” today:

This may be shaping up to be the Democrats’ year, but it’s not Harry Reid’s year. During one of many low points in GOP fortunes this summer, Nevada Senate candidate Jack Carter, son of former President Jimmy and a Reid endorsee, seemed to be gaining ground after a successful stump through the rural parts of the state. Then colitis struck and he was laid up for two weeks. Now incumbent GOP Senator John Ensign, a strong supporter of the Iraq war, tax cuts and other Bush iniquities, is leading by 20 points. The bigger suspense now concerns whether the GOP Senate majority will survive — in which case Mr. Ensign is expected to collect a prized seat on the Finance Committee, his reward for agreeing to become the next chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Other Nevada races that Democrats considered pivotal are looking less and less winnable. Senate Minority Leader Reid took a close interest in former aide Tessa Hafen’s campaign to unseat GOP Rep. Jon Porter. Now polls show Mr. Porter up by 10 points and his latest campaign filings send a warning signal to national Democrats who might have hoped to move the needle with a late ad deluge: Mr. Porter drained his bank account and has locked up $1.48 million worth of TV time before Election Day. Somewhat tighter is the rural race for an open House seat between Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Jill Derby, but Mr. Heller leads by several points. Mr. Reid insists his late-breaking ethics controversy, involving unreported proceeds from the sale of an unreported ownership of a Las Vegas land parcel, has had no effect on Ms. Hafen or other Democratic candidates. “Why would it?” he gamely rejoins. The mere fact that Nevada’s Mr. Democrat has to answer the question shows how the story has thrown local Democrats off-message.

With the governor’s race also going GOPer Jim Gibbons’s way, no wonder Nevada Democrats are starting to focus instead on the 2008 sweepstakes now that Nevada’s presidential caucus has been moved up to compete with Iowa and New Hampshire. The move was a big victory for Mr. Reid and Las Vegas labor and gambling interests, but the underlying theory — that Nevada Democrats led by Mr. Reid know how to win in Red America — is being cast into doubt.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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