This is your intrepid reporter Murfster35, coming to you live from Vegas beach. The media missiles are flying overhead with increasing frequency, the battle is in doubt, but the body count won’t be known until November 6th.
Here we are, 27 days from D-Day. I thought it might be both interesting, as well as informative, to give you a short tour of how things are going in Nevada, which you can use to gauge against your own state, to see if Nevada is an outlier, or if the GOP is fighting this battle the same way on all fronts.
I have lived here in Vegas for more than a dozen years now, and this is without the strangest election cycle I’ve ever seen. What makes it so strange is the contrast between the two parties in advertising. Not just in the form and rancor of the advertising, but especially in the content.
First a little background. If you look at Nevada on a map, with red and blue marking the political control of the real estate, you will normally see a large blue comma in the southeast corner of the state, Clark county, which of course includes the major population center of Las Vegas and Henderson. The rest of the state is bright red, with occasional blue dots, and a purplish spot over Reno. This is deceiving. Visually, the GOP “controls” about 70% of the real estate, but that only accounts for about 14% of the total population. Right now, there are 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans registered in Nevada, and the turnout in Clark county is critical for the Democrats chances. Also critical will be the city of Reno, and its suburbs. This is where Trump’s war against women, personified by the Kavanaugh debacle, could come home to roost. The GOP needs those suburban, women voters, and if they rebel, the Republicans could get hammered.
It’s the advertising that makes absolutely no sense, in two ways. First, there are three major candidates in my area, Jacky Rosen, running for the Senate against “Senator Spineless” Dean Heller, Susie Lee, running for Jacky Rosen’s House seat, and Clark county commissioner Steve Sisolak, running for Governor. All three of them hit the airwaves early, during the primaries, since none of them had previous statewide recognition. Their ads were positive messages, introducing themselves and their records to the voters. Surprisingly, there was absolutely no pushback from the GOP to these ads. This allowed the candidates to present their image and narrative without opposition. This is giving the GOP candidates a hard road to drive to try to attack what has now become a set image and narrative.
But the thing that stuns me the most is the content of the advertising. Lee, Sisolak, and Rosen are all running a nice blend of ads, alternating between positive self promos, and ads attacking their opponents records. All of them are candidate sponsored ads, recognizable by the “I’m *insert name here*, and I approve this commercial.” On the GOP side, Tarkanian, Heller, and Laxalt are almost ad free. Tarkanian just came up with his first self paid ad I’ve seen last weekend, Adam Laxalt has only had a couple up, and I haven’t seen one from Heller yet. Their advertising is being handled almost exclusively by aligned Super PAC’s running attack ads on their behalf. This is a poor substitute, since PAC ads cannot mention the favored candidates name, only attack the opponent To be perfectly honest, if I didn’t follow this stuff as closely as I do, I wouldn’t even know that Danny Tarkanian was opposing Susie Lee for Rosen’s seat, you never hear his name on TV.
The content of the GOP ads is also striking, mainly because of their desperation of topic. Both Tarkanian and Heller’s ads are busy hammering Rosen and Lee for being puppets of Nancy Pelosi and California. The Heller PAC ads are especially sad, alternating between tying Jacky Rosen to Nancy Pelosi at the hip, and darkly threatening that the California Democratic party and donors are “stealing” the Senate seat from Nevada residents.
This unique combination of Pelosi/California bashing, and the almost complete lack of candidate sponsored advertising leads me to only one conclusion. The GOP’s nightmare scenario has come true. Congressional candidates in the GOP literally have nothing to run on. Heller can’t run on Kavanaugh, they can’t run on their tax cuts, they can’t run on healthcare, and they can’t even run on the economy, since main street isn’t feeling the fat cat lane love. Add to that the fact that many of the Democratic challengers are political newcomers, without personal or political weak spots to exploit, and it becomes incredibly difficult to come up with content for advertisements.
So, there it is. That’s what the battle looks like from the front lines of Nevada. The Democratic candidates have strong messages, and they’re staying laser focused on those messages. The Republicans can’t seem to find a damn thing to talk about, other than Nancy Pelosi. If this format is being repeated in other states, it’s little wonder John Kelly put together a working group to start figuring out how to deal with the endless upcoming House investigations of the White House. Keep punching, and keep the faith.