LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Could the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in Nevada tilt the balance of power? That’s why Republicans and Democrats are spending so much money on political campaigns as Nov. 8 nears.
The U.S. Senate is split right down the middle — 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans — headed into the midterm election. Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casts the deciding vote in deadlocks.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt are in a fierce battle for the office, with the most recent poll (Suffolk University/USA Today) showing Laxalt ahead by 1.7 percentage points. Polling that began in early summer has generally shown the race to be a toss-up, with leads that haven’t stretched beyond the poll’s margin of error.
Cortez Masto has run a campaign based on Laxalt’s anti-abortion views, and harsh attacks have persisted with the intent of turning out votes in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
It’s one of the biggest unknowns in this year’s election: Will public sentiment on abortion rights be able to compete with Americans’ outrage over the economy? Democrats are banking on the backlash to the Supreme Court ruling, while Republicans are teeing off on inflation, gas prices and the economy. President Joe Biden’s low performance ratings have provided an easy target for Republican attacks.
A CBS News report in late September indicated Nevada Democrats were seeking to turn the message on the economy around in campaigns focused on Latino voters. Cortez Masto is the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. Her campaign used Democrats’ victories on infrastructure spending to push messages about better jobs and futures for the Latino community.
But the economy continues to be a liability for Democrats, and now Republicans are talking about winning over more Hispanic voters in 2022.
If people who seldom vote aren’t drawn to the polls over the abortion issue, Cortez Masto will need support among voters who aren’t in either party. Independents are another unknown in this year’s election, but a recent poll indicates that Republicans are having much more success than Democrats in winning their support. A New York Times-Siena College poll released on Monday shows independents favoring the GOP by 18 percentage points.
Some political observers are saying the Democrats have staked too much on the Roe v. Wade backlash.
Laxalt’s campaign has boldly challenged Cortez Masto on the abortion issue by going back to her record as his predecessor in the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. With no attempt to deny his stance on abortion, Laxalt argues that he cares more about women than Cortez Masto, who allowed a backlog of rape kits to go untested during her tenure.
Cortez Masto’s campaign hit early and often with negative ads about Laxalt’s record on prosecuting opioid companies, along with his alignment with drug companies and the oil and gas industry. Members of Laxalt’s family have expressed their support for Cortez Masto in recent days. And the negative campaigning still has three weeks to play out.
Recent campaign finance updates from the Federal Election Commission show that Cortez Masto has spent a stunning $40 million thus far, with $5 million in the bank as the election nears. Laxalt’s campaign has spent $9.5 million, and still has $4 million to spend.
Only Georgia has had higher spending in a 2022 U.S. Senate race.
National spending by Political Action Committees has been heavy on both sides, but Cortez Masto has been much more successful in raising individual contributions.