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Dean Heller Makes History in Nevada

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Heller is the first Republican in Nevada to be elected to the U.S. Senate while the state votes for the Democratic presidential nominee since the introduction of popular vote elections

deanheller10.jpgAlthough the race may have been a bit closer than analysts projected early this autumn, incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Dean Heller was able to eke out a victory over Democratic U.S. Representative Shelley Berkley by 12,100+ votes in Nevada on Tuesday.

But Heller did so under unusual circumstances in the Silver State.

A Smart Politics review of Nevada election data finds that Dean Heller is the first Republican U.S. Senator to be elected when a Democratic presidential nominee carried the state at the top of the ticket since the state's 1908 ballot measure in which residents first voted for candidates to the nation's upper legislative chamber.

With just 45.9 percent of the vote, Heller ran only 0.2 points ahead of Romney, who lost the state by 6.6 points to President Obama.

But that was just enough support to save the seat for the GOP, with Berkley at 44.7 percent, Independent American candidate David Vanderbeek receiving 4.9 percent, and 4.5 percent of Nevadans opting for 'none of the above.'

Prior to Tuesday, Nevada was one of 18 states that had never split their ticket for a Democratic presidential nominee and a Republican U.S. Senator since popular vote elections were introduced a century ago.

The other 17 states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Overall, Nevadans have voted for both the Democratic presidential and U.S. Senate nominees in eight cycles (1908, 1912, 1916, 1932, 1940, 1944, 1964, 1992), for both Republican nominees in four cycles (1920, 1952, 1980, 2000), and for the Republican presidential nominee and the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee in six cycles (1928, 1956, 1968, 1976, 1988, 2004).

The previous four Republican U.S. Senators from Nevada elected during a presidential election cycle were Tasker Oddie in 1920 (with Warren Harding at the top of the ticket), George Malone in 1952 (Dwight Eisenhower), Paul Laxalt in 1980 (Ronald Reagan), and John Ensign in 2000 (George W. Bush).

Oddie, Malone, and Laxalt all benefited from presidential coattails with Harding (+14.8 points), Eisenhower (+9.6 points), and Laxalt (+4.0 points) all running ahead of the senate nominees in the state.

Ensign ran 5.6 points ahead of Bush in the state in 2000.

In addition to Heller and Ensign, four other Republican senate nominees have run ahead of their party's presidential nominee in the state: William Massey in 1912 (+23.4 points ahead of William Taft), Tasker Oddie in 1932 (+17.3 points ahead of Herbert Hoover), Paul Laxalt in 1964 (+8.6 points ahead of Barry Goldwater), and Demar Dahl in 1992 (+5.5 points ahead of George H.W. Bush).

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2 Comments


  • I hope this puts an end to all the mythology about the fearsome "Harry Reid Turnout Machine". You can ask his son Rory and returning Rep. Dina Titus (in a new district) how well it worked for them in 2010. Fact is, the Harry Reid Turnout Machine is the HARRY REID Turnout Machine. In 2010 all the campaign mail we received with return address "Nevada Democratic Party" was for Harry and Harry alone. No reference to statewide or legislative candidates, which is why so many of them did so poorly.

    Congratulations, Dean, on six more years!

    Howard Hirsch, MA, School of Public Affairs, U of M, 1976
    chairman, 2007-08
    Lyon County Republican Central Committee
    Dayton, Nevada

  • I attribute it to several factors, but I think one of the primary reasons is Heller is a household name across the state since he was Secretary of State for many years. His opponent, Shelley Berkley was based out of Las Vegas and was known in her own congressional district.
    Well, and the tell all, he has more facebook friends than she has, by nearly 20%. Maybe people just liked him better than Berkley, who many in the north part of the state did not even know.
    And it's not like Heller was waaayyy down ticket. After President, his office was the very next decision on the ballot. Berkley had some ethics issues that "stuck" and her charges against Heller on the CMKK Diamond affiliation did not stick. It was just too attenuated.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

    Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

    Political Crumbs

    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    An Idaho Six Pack

    Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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