LAS VEGAS -- In one of the tightest races, in one of the most populous districts in the country, a spot in Congress comes down to the professor versus the doctor. Incumbent Democrat Dina Titus is fending off a challenge from former State Senate rival Joe Heck for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District.
The roots of this race all go back years beginning in 2007 when Heck and Titus battled over healthcare coverage for women. And also to 2008, when Titus was swept into office with President Obama.
But times have changed and Titus is fighting to keep her seat.
"We've always known this would be a tough race," said Rep. Dina Titus, (D) Las Vegas.
The positive buzz of an Obama freshman representative is now replaced with shaking every hand at every opportunity. Titus has had to reframe arguments against the healthcare bill and the stimulus. She's waging an education campaign to remind people of the positives. For example, the federal stimulus bill.
"That's the biggest tax cut in American history. Ninety five percent of people in Nevada got a tax break averaging $850 a year. People don't know that," Titus said.
But the healthcare fight isn't easy. Her opponent is a doctor.
"It's going to increase costs, it's going to decrease access and this is coming from somebody who's been in the healthcare industry for 25 years," said Joe Heck, (R) candidate for Congress.
Joe Heck has been sparring with Titus for years. In 2007, they went after each other for insurance mandates for the HPV vaccine for women. Critics have attacked heck for his no vote.
"We're just moving a little too quickly to mandate that every insurance company needs to cover this vaccine," he said.
"He can talk about being an emergency room doctor, but you know, he doesn't have a lot of compassion for patients when it comes to choosing between them and insurance companies," countered Titus.
Heck may have better luck with economic issues, like allowing people the option to put some of their Social Security money into the stock market or other investments.
"Again, voluntary, assuming whatever risk, and knowing the risk involved, that they should have that option," Heck said.
Heck simply wants to slow down government intrusion. "They want to ensure that they have a low, predictable, stable tax burden. That they're not overly regulated. That they have the opportunity to go and get a job and keep more of their money in their pocket," Heck said.
The polls have had Heck up by as much as five points at one time, Titus up as much as 2 at others. It's clear the numbers are tight and closing.
This really is a race that mirrors the nation. An Obama-supported incumbent with a strong attack from the right.