(Geoff Dornan | Nevada Appeal) – Both nationally and among observers inside Nevada, Dean Heller’s bid for a second term in the U.S. Senate is the race to watch this year.
National pundits are saying he’s the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate.
After that, of course, it’s the Nevada governor’s race that already has a pair of candidates from each major party.
But in Heller’s case, it’s not just the general election. Right now, the attention is focused on the primary where Danny Tarkanian is mounting a challenge to the incumbent, arguing Heller just isn’t conservative at heart and hasn’t, until recently, backed President Trump.
“I’m not totally sold on Tarkanian as the guy who can take him out,” said Eric Herzik, chairman of the UNR political science department. “I think the (Steve) Bannon wing of the party might have wished for a stronger challenger.”
But both he and Fred Lokken, head of the Truckee Meadows Community College political science department, said Heller can’t afford to take Tarkanian for granted.
That’s obviously Heller’s conclusion as well and he has been moving steadily to the right and into Trump’s fold to do just that.
But both men said Heller’s risk is by running that far right, he might win the primary but so alienate centrist voters, particularly more moderate and conservative Democrats, that he can’t survive the general election.
Heller’s history has always been more moderate than he’s currently painting himself and Lokken said he’s “struck by the insane self-serving hypocrisy of it.”
“He was laughing too hard at the president’s jokes, desperately trying to look like one of the president’s insiders,” he said. “Even if he survives the primary, he puts himself in a bad position for the general election.”