by MATTHEW BOYLE, 27 Oct 2017
Danny Tarkanian, the anti-establishment conservative challenging anti-Trump establishment Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) in Nevada’s primary, has solidified his lead over Heller in a new poll from JMC Analytics released on Friday morning.
The poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters in Nevada conducted from Oct. 24 to Oct. 26 shows Tarkanian leading Heller by six percent, outside the survey’s margin of error. Tarkanian, at 44 percent, is towering over Heller, who is down at just 38 percent. For a sitting senator to be polling under 40 percent in his own primary—never mind under 50 percent—this far out from next summer’s primary is a horrendous sign for Heller, and another cause for worry for the GOP establishment in Washington which has been dealt a series of stinging defeats in recent weeks. Tarkanian’s six-point lead is outside the poll’s 4.4 percent margin of error, and is the second survey in recent weeks showing Tarkanian leading Heller—the other one from JMC Analytics shows the same thing, a Tarkanian lead.
A whopping 86 percent of those surveyed are more likely to support a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate who backs President Donald Trump’s agenda, 70 percent much more likely and 16 percent somewhat more likely. Only 11 percent are either somewhat or much less likely to back a GOP senate candidate who supports Trump’s agenda.
Heller’s favorability is at just 51 percent, while his unfavorable ratings are up at 43 percent. Tarkanian’s favorability is at 59 percent while his unfavorable ratings are down at 24 percent—numbers essentially unmoved since August, which means efforts by the Senate Leadership Fund are falling flat in Nevada just like they did in Arizona and Alabama.
The Senate Leadership Fund, a PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been dealt a series of brutal losses in recent weeks. Back on Sept. 26, hours before the polls closed in Alabama’s special election Senate GOP primary runoff, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) announced his retirement next year. Corker was instrumental in pushing President Trump to endorse and campaign for appointed establishment-backed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in Alabama, who was later that night dealt a significant loss in the primary runoff to conservative Judge Roy Moore. Meanwhile, this week, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced his intent to not seek re-election next year—the third such establishment senator to go down in flames in the past month.
Interestingly, JMC Analytics nailed the Alabama Senate primary and runoff in its polling, emerging as one of the firms that caught the trend before everyone else. Strange’s campaign, and McConnell’s allies at the Senate Leadership Fund, tried to dismiss JMC Analytics polling showing Strange losing badly to Moore–but they just embarrassed themselves by doing so.
Now, with Heller underwater in Nevada, it appears conservative anti-establishment pro-Trump forces are moving in on Nevada behind Tarkanian against the pro-amnesty Heller—and looking to states like Wyoming, Utah, and Mississippi as well.
Heller’s 2013 vote for the “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill makes him anathema to most Republicans, who despise those who voted for the bill that would have legalized every illegal alien in America. President Trump ran hard against that bill in 2015 and 2016, defeating many of its supporters including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—establishment politicians who otherwise would have likely had a better chance of winning in 2016. Now, support for amnesty for illegal aliens—and opposition to President Trump’s America First agenda—endangers folks like Heller and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who also voted for the 2013 amnesty bill.
In the case of Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), their vote against the Gang of Eight amnesty plan in 2013 is not likely enough to save them given their close proximity to McConnell.
This week, in the wake of Flake’s resignation announcement, Heller has emerged as a top target for conservatives and a top protection priority for McConnell. McConnell has sent his Senate Leadership Fund team into the Nevada battle to try to protect Heller, as the group sent out a bunch of fake news about Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon—the former White House chief strategist who was President Trump’s general election campaign CEO—by falsely arguing Bannon is a white supremacist.
The effect of the attacks, however, is now McConnell is falsely alleging that President Trump associates with white supremacists, and hired one to run and win his general election campaign in 2016—and McConnell is accusing President Trump of hiring a white supremacist to be his White House chief strategist in 2016. The attacks by McConnell and his cronies on President Trump and Bannon are unlikely to be successful; failed 2016 Democratic nominee for president Hillary Rodham Clinton learned that the hard when she ran the same losing playbook that McConnell is running now last year.
Part of why McConnell is desperate to protect Heller is because Tarkanian has promised to vote against McConnell remaining as Senate Majority Leader due to all of McConnell’s failures in leadership. Heller, meanwhile, refuses to answer–he has dodged the question repeatedly–whether he supports McConnell remaining as Senate Majority Leader.
It remains to be seen if McConnell and his henchmen can do enough to protect Heller, or if Heller will also throw in the towel and give up before a risky, expensive, and now per recent polling clearly-likely-to-be-unsuccessful campaign next year.