In Arizona Democrats Look To The Future

1401926056000-phxdc5-6f8mrgv3ykjokmr7gjd-originalIn Arizona, Democrats are looking to the future.  Facing a shallow bench nationwide the party is being forced to rely on formerly defeated officials to reclaim the Senate and House.  But not in the state of Arizona.

On Tuesday Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick announced she would challenge Senator John McCain for the state’s Senate seat.  Kirkpatrick, who currently represents the swing 1st Congressional District, has a history of winning challenging elections.

In 2008 she won the open 1st Congressional District by a 16% margin.  She struggled to overcome the GOP wave of 2010 and lost but by a mere 6% in a Republican district.  Redistricting shuffled the map and she jumped at the chance to run in a more competitive 1st District.  Despite being carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 she won by 3% against a strong GOP challenger.  Last year she won again by 5% to be one of five Democrats representing districts Mitt Romney won (NB-1, FL-2, MN-7 and MN-1).

John McCain is a solidly entrenched five-term incumbent in a GOP leaning state.  But Kirkpatrick gives the party the appeal to demographics they need to carry the state.  Her competitive district includes many Native American areas and she has appealed to these groups in her recent election victories.  She also has the moderate ideological persona that would allow her to eat into the GOP stronghold of Maricopa County.  Historically, successful statewide Democratic contenders have won at least 45% of the vote in the county.

She also is not burdened with a highly liberal voting record.  Though she did vote for Obamacare and the Stimulus she has kept to a much more centrist record since.  This will greatly benefit her in a Presidential year when Arizona still remains more Republican than not even with increased turnout.

But there is an added wrinkle to her bid.  The US Supreme Court is currently weighing a challenge to the state’s current Congressional map.  If the court sides with the state GOP it would reshuffle the state’s political landscape.  Republicans, who control the legislature and Governor’s office would likely redraw the state map and drive Congressman Kyrsten Sinema to run for Senate instead of a redesigned Republican leaning district.  Further, Kirkpatrick could see her district change and become much more Republican.

John McCain is not safe in the current political environment however.  Much of the state’s GOP grassroots dislike the Senator for being to moderate and he faces a primary challenge from his right.  So far, it is only from one state GOP Senator and outside groups which targeted him in 2010 are sitting on the sidelines.  But that could change and allow Kirkpatrick to portray herself as a moderate, bipartisan Senator while the GOP primary bloodies the eventual winner.

Still, the race will be an uphill slog for Kirkpatrick.  Her vote for Obamacare is sure to be used in 2016 and John McCain, if he is the GOP’s nominee, will tout his experience.  And while demographic trends in the state favor Democrats they are not quite at the point where it gives a Democrat an edge in statewide, federal contests.  Worse, John McCain has shown a tendency to perform better among Hispanics than most statewide Republicans.  He carried 40% of the Hispanic vote in 2010 while then gubernatorial candidate Jan Brewer won a mere 28%.

Kirkpatrick starts this race as an underdog.  But at least she is giving Democrats something they have been missing in their quest to retake Congress; a candidate who is not a blast from the past but new blood.


Republicans Are Finding Success With The Young

BlairGeneration Z, or the Facebook Generation, unlike their predecessors, Millennials, are still growing into their own politically.  Many in Generation Z are not even old enough to vote for or have graduated High School.  But in a sign of just how important the GOP views capturing or minimizing the Democratic advantage among the youth vote (18-29) the GOP boasts the only two elected Generation Z state legislators and both are women.

The first, Sara Blair of West Virginia was elected when she was 18.  Defeating a 66-year-old Republican incumbent in the primary when she was just 17 she than easily captured her red legislative seat 63%-30% last November.  Blair did have the benefit of coming from a politically active and well-known family.  Her father, state senator Craig Blair, was elected in 2013.  Take the political leanings of the district out of the equation and the fact a 17-year-old lady would run for office and win is amazing.  And it runs contrary to popular wisdom the youth vote is a lock for Democrats.

Now, building on such success comes a recent story out of New Hampshire’s 32 LD.  The legislative district, based in Rockingham County and encompassing the towns of Northwood, Candia, Nottingham, Deerfield and Epping, has largely been considered a swing district at the legislative level.  Former Democratic legislator Maureen Mann, who first captured the district in a 2007 special election and won (2008, 2012) it on and off ran to recapture her old seat.  Then state rep. Brian Dobson was vacating the seat to work for Congressman Frank Guinta.

Mann faced minimal competition in her primary but so did her challenger, 19-year-old Yvonne Dean-Bailey.  Mann, a former public school teacher campaigned on her legislative record and strengthening education.  Bailey, a newbie to politics, campaigned on fiscal conservatism but made the smart choice to avoid directing attacking popular Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan.  Instead, her pleas attempted to turn the election into a referendum on a generic Republican vs. a generic Democrat. On May 19th Bailey won with 1,359 (52.4%) votes to Mann’s 1,233 (47.6%) votes.  Bailey now is the youngest legislator in the state and the second youngest in the country.

Bailey’s victory is not just relevant because it happened but because of what it represents.  The GOP obviously saw the election as a way to get a young woman involved in politics but also as a way to test messages and strategies ahead of 2016 and present a new image of the party.  A who’s who of Republican Presidential contenders descended on the small district to promote Bailey’s candidacy including Rick Perry and Marco Rubio.  Robocalls by other contenders were recorded on her behalf.  As a result the former intern for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former field organizer for former U.S. House candidate Marilinda Garcia saw turnout in the small district increase significantly from past special elections.  That turnout benefited her campaign.

Now, two elections in two states do not necessarily indicate the youth vote is about to swing rightward in 2016.  But combined with other events it does present a hard to ignore pattern.  Since 2012 the Democratic share of the youth vote (Millennials and Generation Z) has been steadily dropping.  In that election Obama captured 60% of the youth vote (compared to 68% in 2008).  The 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election saw Ken Cuccinelli, according to exit polls, win 45%-39% 18-24 year olds but lose 18-29 year olds 40%-45%.  In New Jersey Chris Christie easily capture the youngest demographic.  Moving onward to 2014 and the GOP captured 43% of the 18-29 year old vote in the national House vote.  Individual US Senate and Gubernatorial exit polls saw individual candidates coming close or winning the demographic.  Also, the youngest female Congresswoman ever elected, Elise Stephanik, a Republican won in NY-23.

This 2015 election result fits right in with the pattern.  Republican efforts to broaden their party’s appeal to the young and recruit young, smart candidates to run is paying off.  While Democrats assume they have a lock on the demographic it may not be as secure as they assume.  Recent election results should give the Left pause and make them consider whether the demographic advantage they believe they enjoy is more a passing trend than a permanent one.



The Democratic Party Continues to Tilt to the Left

Former City Councilman Jim Kenney smiles at a comment as he is introduced to supporters in Philadelphia's City Hall's Mayor's Reception Room February 4, 2015 where he announced his candidacy for mayor.  ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )
Former City Councilman Jim Kenney smiles at a comment as he is introduced to supporters in Philadelphia’s City Hall’s Mayor’s Reception Room February 4, 2015 where he announced his candidacy for mayor. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )

Hillary Clinton’s shift to the Left continues unabated and two recent events showcase why.  Late last week Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled a progressive dream of making public colleges free for all.  The Clinton camp knew this was coming and had already hinted they might support some kind of free college.  But Sander’s full-fledged avocation of the issue shows he is trying to out-left Hillary.

Another event occurred that likely slipped under the radar for many.  On Tuesday, Democratic Jim Kenney won his party’s mayoral primary in Philadelphia.  He faced off against Anthony Hardy Williams, a supporter of charter schools and fiscally “smarter” policies.  Hardy, not exactly a centrist by any stretch, dominated the monetary aspect of the race, spending over $7 million to defeat Kenney.  But Kenney, endorsed by progressive superheros Elizabeth Warren and Bill De Blasio won with 56% of the vote.

While the media tends to downplay there is a rift in the Democratic Party it is clear a rift exists.  And it could be characterized as starting after Obama’s 2012 win.  It is said as soon as a President wins a second term he becomes a lame duck.  True or not Obama’s lack of signature accomplishments in the first two years of his second term angered progressives because they believed he was appeasing red-state Democrats and being squishy on progressive priorities.

Democratic losses in 2014 only added fuel to the fire.  Many moderate, red state Democrats were defeated in the Senate and only five House Democrats now sit in districts that voted for Mitt Romney.  This perhaps irreparably shifted the balance of power in the party to the Progressive Left.  Since 2014 the Progressive Left has staked out policy and electoral turf.  The battle in Chicago that made former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have to go into a run-off to hold the Mayor’s office stands as one example.  The more recent policy example was a solid majority of the Democratic Senate Caucus voting against the Obama endorsed Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

Consider this, Democratic efforts to find more centrist,traditionally liberal candidates to run for political office has resulted in some backfires.  The GOP learned such lessons the hard way in 2010 (Nevada, Colorado) and 2012 (Indiana).  Democratic attempts to clear the Senate field in Ohio have failed with Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld refusing to bow out against former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.  In Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto,  and Florida, Congressman Chris Murphy, the party’s anointed nominees have not scared off more progressives like Dina Titus (NV) and Alan Grayson (FL).

It’s little surprise the Democratic Party is moving to the left.  Jim Kenney’s pollster, Anna Greenburg, states fact when she says “The energy in the Democratic Party is on the left.  It’s coming from the urban centers, and that’s where Democratic votes come from.”  Thus, it is little surprise progressives and their candidates feel they can move the party leftward as more rural and suburban voters leave the party.

This poses significant problems for the party.  The establishment realizes it while the Progressive wing does not.   Ideas like expanding school choice are popular among some elements of the Democratic Party.  Progressives have largely battled mayors like Emanuel and now Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey (former mayor of Newark) for trying to expand school choice.  Also, Progressives are far more likely to go all in on taxes for a greater welfare state and free college.  But this idea might upset Democrats topsy-turvy alliance with affluent suburban voters turned off by the GOP’s stances on immigration and social issues.

Regardless, it is clear the energy is towards the Progressives as the end of the Obama era nears.  The Clinton camp knows it and has backpedaled on former, more moderate policy positions in favor of more progressive ones to court this ascendant wing of the party.  Course, Democrats may never be able to hold onto the Senate or retake the House for a decade but as Democratic leaders are learning (as the GOP did) ideological purity trumps electoral victory to true believers.


A Wide Open Presidential Field Benefits Republicans

From left to right: Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker
From left to right: Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker

A recent poll came out finding the GOP is satisfied with their Presidential field.  More-so, GOP voters seem to want a primary where policies and ideas can be hashed out.  But, you would be forgiven if you are scratching your head when you hear analysts and talking heads going on about how it is bad for the party to have a wide-open field.  “It causes debate headaches,” “You get fringe candidates” and “Anybody can win” are common refrains. Or as the Washington Post’s residential liberal Dana Milbank called it, “The GOP Clown-car.”  But, after 2012 the GOP should welcome a more wide open primary.

In 2012 the primary results were never in doubt.  But because the base never fully embraced the party’s inevitable nominee, Mitt Romney, he was forced to embrace policies pleasing to the base but displeasing to the general electorate.  Further, owing to his background, Romney was never embraced by the party faithful and turnout in rural areas in key states was stagnant.

This go around there is somebody in the primary every Republican can be pleased with.  You have Romneylike moderates in Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.  You have establishment conservatives in Rubio and Walker.  Evangelicals and very conservative voters can get behind a host of candidates including Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.  Libertarians can like Rand Paul.

At first glance such a wide and divided field might seem to be a hindrance for the party.  It is certainly proving troublesome for the RNC in managing debates.  But it also gives the party a chance to show the breath and diversity of its support through its candidates and give the base somebody to support in the nomination process.  Consider that Carly Fiorina is the CEO of HP.  Ben Carson is best known for being from urban Detroit and becoming a world-renowned neurosurgeon.  These two by themselves put to bed the myth the GOP is only the party of white men.

It goes deeper than this however.  Rick Santorum can speak to the concerns of struggling blue-collar workers feeling like they are being left behind.  Marco Rubio can speak to the greatness of the US and recall a bygone era where immigrants came to this country to assimilate and be successful.  Scott Walker can tout his efforts in Wisconsin where his policy solutions convinced a moderate electorate that conservative policies work.  In essence, a wide GOP field gives everybody something.

I remember an email conversation I was having with my family about a month back.  I chimed in that a Ted Cruz candidacy was damaging to the GOP.  But my brother had an excellent point.  Even though Cruz might not win and he might alienate some left of center moderates in the general he would engage conservative voters by speaking to their concerns.  Thus, voters engaged in the process would be more likely to go out and vote in the general.  Extend this to a Mike Huckabee with social conservatives or Santorum with blue-collar workers and his point is well made.

Contrast this with the Democrats go big or go home strategy with Hillary.  The party literally has nobody waiting in the wings.  Left wing populist challenges from Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (a self-described socialist), former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley are unlikely to dent Clinton.

But it is perhaps because of the lack of competition that Hillary has suffered.  Beyond the unethical accusations that mount daily against her she has released few policy positions and avoided the media.  Heck, Bernie Sanders has done more interviews than she has.  The only policies Hillary as laid out are vague and base pleasers. amnesty and college loan debt forgiveness.  She’s staked out leftist positions on issues she was more conservative on (sentencing reform 1994 to now and Immigration Reform 2006 to now).

GOP candidates by contrast have started laying out far more detailed policy positions.  Rand Paul has put out a detailed policy on reforming police departments and drug penalties.  Marco Rubio recently laid out his foreign policy vision.  Jeb Bush put out a detailed plan to end social mobility and lift people out of poverty.

None of this guarantees the GOP will win the Presidency and an unelectable candidate could come out of the GOP primary.  But whereas Democrats are stuck with one option the GOP has a plentiful bounty and combined they all speak to disparate segments of the party.  That has to be considered a major boon for any party in any Presidential race.






Russ Feingold Is In And Wisconsin Turns Into A Senate Battleground

FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2010 file photo, then-Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. speaks in Middleton, Wis. Does Feingold want his old job in the Senate back? The State Department said Friday that the former three-term Democratic senator from Wisconsin is leaving his post as a special envoy in Africa next month. And it just so happens that the man who ousted Feingold from the Senate in 2010, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, is up for re-election next year.  (AP Photo/Joe Koshollek, File) ORG XMIT: WX114
FILE – In this Nov. 2, 2010 file photo, then-Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. speaks in Middleton, Wis. Does Feingold want his old job in the Senate back? The State Department said Friday that the former three-term Democratic senator from Wisconsin is leaving his post as a special envoy in Africa next month. And it just so happens that the man who ousted Feingold from the Senate in 2010, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, is up for re-election next year. (AP Photo/Joe Koshollek, File) ORG XMIT: WX114

To assess the state of the race at this early stage and Feingold’s viability we must look at his past performances.  First elected in 1992 Feingold was the beneficiary of the GOP putting up a weak candidate.  He was also helped by Bill Clinton’s 5% victory in the state.  Feingold carried it by 6%.  In 1998, Feingold faced a serious challenge from then Congressman Mark Nuemann.  He won by less than 2%.  Feingold’s best showing by far came in 2004 when he faced a weak GOP opponent.  Feingold won with 55% even as John Kerry barely carried the state by 11,000 votes.

Fast forward to 2010 however and a bad political climate for Democrats and Feingold turned into toast.  His weaknesses with voters in prior campaigns were made clear and he lost by almost 5%.  Just what are these weaknesses?  Let’s explore shall we.

First off, Democratic strength in the state is largely based on two counties, Dane and Milwaukee.  Feingold’s strength in all his campaigns has been no different.  But while these two counties are strong for Democrats the rest of SE Wisconsin (Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee) are strong GOP areas.  Balancing out Dane County is GOP strength in the NE part of the state which is covered by the Green Bay media market (Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago counties.

The swing area of the state is the Northwest.  These counties are made up of largely rural and moderate voters.  In both 1998 and 2010 Feingold struggled among rural voters in the Northwest and suburban voters in the Northeast.  Indeed, Feingold won only four counties in the NE in 2010 compared to Obama’s carrying of all but three counties in the region.  Feingold will have to perform much more strongly with these voters in 2016 to win.

Feingold’s 2010 campaign underscored another weakness.  He is a poor campaigner.  In 1992 and 2004 this factor was kept to a minimum against weak challengers.  But in 1998 and 201o it was laid bare.  In the 2010 campaign Feingold refused to take money from SuperPAC’s and allowed himself to be overwhelmed with Johnson’s and outside groups spending.  He also struggled to find an effective message on the stump and constantly found himself defending his record instead of using it to his advantage.  Come 2016 Feingold needs to find a reason why he should be brought back for another term.

The last point is one Feingold can do little about.  There is not much about Feingold to get excited about for the party base.  He’s a white male and a career politician and even his crusade on campaign finance is unlikely to change such an image.  In 2010 he was raked over the coals with this attack line and he didn’t respond.

Fortunately for Feingold he does have some things going for him.  He starts the race with excellent name identification numbers as well as strong favorability ratings.  Second, he leads Johnson in early polls.  Third, presidential turnout in the state since 2004 has aided the party more than in midterm cycles recently.  Lastly, he seems to have learned from his mistakes and is willing to take outside money.

But learning from past mistakes and early polling leads does not guarantee victory.  Johnson has recently ramped up his fundraising and is raising his profile on national security in a bid to appeal to moderates.  Feingold will need to find a way to counter this and make the narrative of the race about the incumbent and not him.


Kentucky Gubernatorial Race is Wide Open

Matt Bevin on the stump.
Matt Bevin on the stump.

Few competitive gubernatorial elections occur the year before the Presidential season kicks off.  But the most competitive of the batch (Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana) has consistently been Kentucky.  Since 2003 in Louisiana and 2007 in Mississippi the states have taken hard right turns at all levels of governance.  In 2014 the GOP took control of West Virginia’s state legislature and the open governor’s race this year could finally fall into the party’s hands.

Kentucky has not followed such a trend.  Despite having a strong Republican lean at the federal level the state has had a Democratic Governor for 36 of the last 40 years.  The Democratic Party also maintains a slim 6 seat majority in the state house (53-47).  Further, Democrats control all statewide executive offices except Agricultural Commissioner.  Kentucky Democrats have done this by emphasizing their rural roots and distancing themselves successfully from their party’s progressive heavy national brand.  Something Democrats running for federal office in the state have been unable to do (sorry, Allison Lundgrin Grimes).

Still, Republicans remain optimistic 2015 could be their year to reclaim the Governor’s mansion.  Popular Democratic Governor Steven Beshear is retiring and the Democrat likely to replace him is current AG Jack Conway.  Conway is best known for his 12% loss to Rand Paul for the then Senator Jim Bunning’s seat in 2010.  Conway seems to have learned his lesson from the loss and has changed his tone and tactics for a gubernatorial contest.  He is emphasizing his state roots and is courting the state’s socially conservative electorate by deemphasizing his support for abortion and emphasizing his opposition to gay marriage (a flip from 2010 when he supported it).

The GOP field is muddled.  Officially four candidates are in the GOP primary; James Comer, Hal Heiner, Matt Bevin and Will Scott.  However, Comer, Bevin and Heiner are the only three viable candidates and they are neck and neck in the GOP primary.  Comer, the state’s Agricultural Commissioner, was originally the front-runner but allegations from his ex-girlfriend that he abused her when they were in college decades earlier (stop me if you’ve heard this before) have hurt him.  Now, Louisville businessman Hal Heiner and 2014 GOP Senate candidate Matt Bevin have gained.  Heiner appeals more to the business community and has aided in splitting Comer’s support while Bevin retains the support of the grassroots and Tea Party.

Who wins the GOP primary next Tuesday could depend on their bases of support and turnout. A recent WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll found Bevin (27%), Comer (26%), and Heiner (25%) in a statistical dead heat.  But their regional support strongly varied.  Comer led by 15% in the rural Southwest while tying Heiner in the Southeast.  Bevin lead by 17% in the Northcentral region of the state while Heiner led by 6% in the Louisville area.

By far the two largest voting areas in recent GOP primaries (2010, 2011, 2014) have been the Louisville and Northcentral region.  Turnout in the Southeast is sporadic and weak while the Southwest is little better.  In other words, Bevin’s lead regionally could carry him through to the general.  However, if Heiner’s lead is actually larger in Louisville than the Bluegrass poll suggests he could easily win with 30% of the total vote.  Bevin also suffers a question mark in the poll because his support is primarily young yet primary voters have historically been older.

Whichever GOP nominee makes it out of the primary will face a tough climb in the general despite the state’s conservative lean.  Conway leads all possible GOP challengers by varying margins.  He leads Comer 45%-39%, Heiner 48%-36% and Bevin 48%-37%.  This seems to be more of a reflection of the nastiness of the GOP primary and Conway largely cruising through an uncontested primary of his own.

Conway can virtually be assured of victory if he maintains support in the areas that Beshear and former Democrats have held, the Northcentral region and urban Louisville.  Northcentral Kentucky has ever so steadily been becoming more Republican at the federal level.  In 2008 and 2012 Obama carried a total of five counties in the region (including Fayette).  In 2010, Conway actually carried the region against Paul.  But fast forward to the 2014 Senate contest and Grimes performed significantly worse than Conway.  The parallels between the two candidates are striking.  Both were sitting statewide officials in largely nonpartisan offices.  Yet, voters in the region shifted their partisan preferences significantly.

However, these were federal elections.  Statewide elections are a different matter and Beshear’s legacy of social conservatism and fiscal moderation will likely benefit Conway.  GOP strength at the state level has varied since 2003 (last time they won the governorship).  That year the GOP found a winning formula by overcoming Democratic margins in Louisville and the Northcentral/Northeast by running strongly in the Southwest.  Whoever makes it out of the GOP primary Tuesday will need to do the same or find a way to make inroads among local Democrats in the Northcentral region.


Addendum: A follow-up post will be written before the November election.

Count Me As Skeptical Joe Heck Can Win Harry Reid’s Senate Seat

Joe-Heck-NevadaThe announcement Harry Reid would not run for reelection shook up the Nevada political landscape.  Now, another possible announcement threatens to upend it even further.  Since Harry Reid’s announcement, Congressman Joe Heck (R) has announced he is reconsidering his prior statement he would run for reelection in the competitive Las Vegas suburbs based 3rd Congressional District.

Heck has run strongly in the district.  When he was first elected in 2010 he won the district by a narrow 1800 votes over Congresswoman Dina Titus.  Titus, who now represents the urban Las Vegas based 1st Congressional District is contemplating running for Senate.  When Obama was carrying the district in 2012 and after redistricting meant Heck had to introduce himself to new voters he carried it by 7%.  In 2014 he won it by a large 24% margin.

But for all of Heck’s strengths the Congressman probably does not stand much of a chance in a statewide Senate race.  First off, Heck is likely to face a primary from the right if he runs.  One Republican is already in the race, Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers while others including state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, former state Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, who served as Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief of staff, and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison have indicated varying degrees of interest.  However, Roberson might run for Heck’s vacant seat while Hutchinson and Gansert might defer to Heck to unite the party.

Second, Heck will be running statewide for the first time and have to introduce himself to a statewide electorate.  Though he benefits from living in the suburban 3rd CD he will still need to introduce himself to a wide swath of voters.  Thirdly and this is the biggie is Heck will be running against the Reid machine.  The potential impact of the Reid machine cannot be overstated as it allowed the former Majority Leader to survive strong challenges in 1998 (John Ensign) and 2010 (Sharron Angle).

Heck could be aided by a Democratic primary if it develops.   Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto jumped into the race as soon as Reid said he was not running but that has not stopped Titus from contemplating a bid.  In a clash of those two heavyweights Heck could wait it out exploit whatever damage is done to the eventual Democratic nominee.

Whatever happens Heck will likely need some luck to be on his side.  His appeal to Latinos is likely to be limited and by extension his ability to win cross-over voters.  Secondly, Heck will need the ultimate GOP Presidential nominee to run well in Nevada to give the Congressman a chance.  Fewer and fewer voters today are splitting their ballots in federal races.

Add it all together and I am skeptical Heck can win if he runs.  This assumes he runs as the 800 pound elephant in the room has yet to announce his intentions, Governor Brian Sandoval.  No Republican would command such a strong presence than the Governor.