Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) has defeated Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), giving Democrats their top Senate pickup opportunity of the cycle and a silver lining in a rough night in the Senate.
Rosen led Heller 52 percent to 44 percent percent with 76 percent of precincts reporting. CNN and the Nevada Independent have called the race.
Her win gives Democrats a victory in the only place where a Republican was up for reelection in a state President Trump lost in 2016. And it signals that Nevada may be sliding from pure swing-state status to a slight Democratic lean.
Rosen and Heller were neck-and-neck in the polls for much of the race. But Heller was caught crossways between the Trump-aligned GOP base he needed to win back after distancing himself from the President and the overall electorate that didn’t view Trump favorably.
That triggered a Trump-fueled primary challenger who forced Heller to the right. Heller’s response was to embrace the President and, after dragging his feet for months, crossing the wishes of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) to vote for Obamacare repeal. Trump paid him back by convincing Heller’s primary opponent, Danny Tarkanian, to run for the House instead, but the damage was done.
Rosen relentlessly attacked Heller over his Obamacare vote and his finger-in-the-wind approach to such a crucial policy, painting him as spineless, weak and unprincipled. Heller responded by highlighting his work on veterans’ issues and firing away at her for taking huge sums from California liberal donors, while his allies attacked her on immigration issues.
But those attacks cut both ways, helping fuel huge turnout from Hispanic voters and boosting Democrats’ strong turnout efforts in the state.
The GOP base came in strong for Heller as well after his Trump embrace, with the rural counties booming in turnout as well.
Heller has never lost a race before. But in a year when suburban voters were furious with Trump and the Democratic machine helped further goose Hispanic turnout to levels not normally seen in midterm elections, Trump’s unpopularity proved too much for the Republican senator.