Nevada Senator Dean Heller Looking Increasingly Vulnerable In Reelection Bid

The GOP's most vulnerable incumbent is still looking very vulnerable.

A new poll shows that incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller is in a fight for his political life:

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) leads his Democratic challenger by just 1 point in a new poll.

A survey from the Nevada Independent/Mellman Group finds that Heller leads Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen (Nev.) 40-39 in the state, with 21 percent of respondents still undecided about their vote in the upcoming midterms.

Heller is considered one of the most vulnerable senators on the ballot in November, after Hillary Clinton won Nevada in 2016.Notably, Rosen leads Heller by 2 percent in the category of voters who “strongly” support a candidate, suggesting an enthusiasm gap that favors Democrats. Thirty percent of respondents ”strongly” support Rosen, according to the poll, while just 28 percent “strongly” support Heller.

Heller’s favorability in the state is underwater in the poll, with 40 percent of voters viewing him unfavorably compared to 38 percent who approve of his job performance as senator. Rosen, meanwhile, enjoys a 20 percent favorability rating compared to 15 percent who view her unfavorably.

Heller benefits from name recognition, however. Just 8 percent of Nevada voters say they hadn’t heard of Dean Heller, compared to 34 percent who said they hadn’t heard of Rosen.

As I’ve noted before, Heller has long been deemed the most vulnerable Republican Senator up for reelection this year. In part, this is due to the fact that Heller only won election six years ago by a narrow one-point margin and that, while the state has a Republican Governor, its other Senator is a Democrat who won election two years ago by a three-point margin. This polls, which actually shows Heller with a lead, is largely consistent with previous polling that had shown Heller’s likely opponent, Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, with a slight lead, all of these polls also shows as many as 20% of the respondents undecided. It’s also worth noting that Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016, although she failed to win the support of a majority of Nevada voters. Additionally, the race is listed as a Toss-Up by the Cook Political Report, the Rothenberg Political Report, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. While there are still six months left until Election Day, all of this adds up to bad news for Heller, who has sought for the past two years to navigate a course  between being a Republican in Washington in the Trump Era and keeping himself politically alive in a state where, thanks in no small part to a growing Latino population, President Trump isn’t necessarily very popular.

All of this matters, of course, because the Republican Party is looking at a what is likely to be a difficult midterm year over the next six months, In addition to a House majority that is looking increasingly precarious, especially in the wake of yesterdays surprisingly close finish in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, their Senate majority is looking increasingly precarious. In addition to Heller’s seat, Republicans also appear to be facing trouble in Arizona and Tennessee. Given the fact that Republicans currently hold only a one-seat majority in the Senate and that current polling shows that Republicans are trailing in red state challenges to Democrats in states such as West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota, the current status of the race in Nevada should be concerning to the GOP.

Obviously, it’s far too early to make any predictions but as things stand right now it’s apparent that Heller is hanging on a very small branch, as is the GOP majority in the Senate.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    I think there is an increasingly likely chance that either the Senate split stays exactly the same but with new Senators, or there’s a 50/50 tie.

    Indiana, WV, and ND flip to red. Nevada, AZ (assuming McCain’s seat isn’t up for grabs), and TN flips blue. Split stays the same.

    Or Indiana stays strong (Donnelly is making all the right moves, and is raising funds very well), and the Dems lose two other seats, resulting in a 50/50 split (or is my math wrong there?)

  2. CSK says:

    It’s interesting to speculate on how Trump will react to having to deal with Democratic majorities in the house and senate. Will he brag about the “great deals” he’s going to make? Will he even notice there’s a change?

  3. Kylopod says:

    @Neil Hudelson: You forgot about MO’s Claire McCaskill, who has the worst approval rating of any Democratic Senator right now–39% positive, 44% negative. On the plus side, ND’s Heidi Heitkamp and MT’s Jon Tester have improved in their ratings.

  4. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    A 50/50 split would be really interesting.

    For example, if such a split happened, what are the chances of Murkowski and/or Collins switching parties?

  5. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    I bet that the Democrats will keep ND, WV, IN, MO and MT, and grab NV and AZ. Very few Senators from the opposing party fail to be reelected in midterm years. Rudy Boschwitz, Carol Moseley Braun, Al D’Amato, Lauch Faircloth, Jean Carnahan and Max Cleland are the exceptions that make the rule.

  6. Kylopod says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: Excellent point.

  7. Jen says:

    @Kylopod: McCaskill might not be popular, but she is far out-raising her Republican opponent.

    It won’t be a cakewalk, that’s for certain, and the big unknown is how unaffiliated groups plan to spend. Missouri is a red state, but came very close to seeing Jason Kander beat Roy Blunt in the last US Senate race. They also do tend to elect a fair number of Democrats for statewide office.