Republican Danny Tarkanian has agreed to drop his primary against Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) and instead run for the House after getting a public shove from President Trump on Friday to do so, boosting Heller’s chances of reelection in the Democratic-leaning state.
Tarkanian announced he’d undertake another House run (he’s lost two previous bids for the House and six different campaigns in the state) almost immediately after Trump tweeted that he should do so and leave Heller alone, saying he’d done so because Trump asked him Wednesday night.
“I am confident I would have won the US Senate race and done a great job representing the people of Nevada in the Senate, but the president is adamant that a unified Republican ticket in Nevada is the best direction for the America First movement,” Tarkanian said in a statement.
His decision eliminates Heller’s primary rival and may give the senator some more wiggle room as he looks to burnish his moderate bona fides ahead of what looks like a very tough reelection fight against Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) that has been made harder by Heller’s bear-hugging the president to block Tarkanian.
“It would be great for the Republican Party of Nevada, and it’s [sic.] unity if good guy Danny Tarkanian would run for Congress and Dean Heller, who is doing a really good job, could run for Senate unopposed!” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.
It would be great for the Republican Party of Nevada, and it’s unity if good guy Danny Tarkanian would run for Congress and Dean Heller, who is doing a really good job, could run for Senate unopposed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2018
The tweet comes after Trump has privately said he’d campaign for Heller, who has become a loyal foot soldier for the president ever since he won in 2016.
Heller faces a brutal reelection campaign against Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Tarkanian had forced him into being a loyal foot soldier by running a campaign mostly focused on bashing Heller for not backing Trump enough. Trump’s public shove of Tarkanian may be the biggest help he’s done the GOP establishment since becoming president.
But while avoiding a primary is a godsend for Heller, Trump’s seal of approval is unlikely to help in the general election in a state he narrowly lost in 2016, has large and fast-growing populations of Hispanics and Asian Americans. According to Gallup, Trump’s approval rating in the state is in line with his national average over the past year, at slightly above 40 percent.
The Reno Gazette-Journal first reported Tarkanian’s change of heart.