LAS VEGAS — Many Republicans are breathing easier this week, confident that the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination fired up their voters.
Dean Heller isn’t one of them. Facing a female challenger in a state gradually becoming more Democratic, the senator and longtime fixture in Nevada politics has long been one of the few GOP incumbents at risk of losing their seat this year.
Now, in the final weeks of the campaign, he’s got a full-scale gender politics fight on his hands, infused with a stoked debate over abortion rights that will test whether the Supreme Court showdown will help or hurt the GOP’s effort to maintain control of the Senate.
He’s facing freshman congresswoman Jacky Rosen, who blasted Kavanaugh and railed on Heller’s characterization of sexual misconduct allegations against him as “smears” and a hiccup in the confirmation process.
Heller, who voted last week to confirm Kavanaugh, “never had any intention of being an independent voice on this Supreme Court nominee,” Rosen said after the vote. “Voters will hold Senator Heller accountable for becoming just another rubber stamp.”
She’s betting her message will resonate with a broad swath of suburban women who are angry with Trump, especially in the aftermath of Kavanaugh’s confirmation following allegations of sexual assault.
For most Republicans this year, supporting Trump and Kavanaugh make for good politics. GOP candidates in North Dakota and Missouri have made inroads by arguing the Democratic incumbents, who opposed the pick, are out of step with voters in these Republican-leaning states who overwhelmingly support Trump and his Supreme Court pick.
But Nevada is different. Heller is the only Republican up for re-election this year in a state carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. And though the state is often up for grabs by both parties, the urbanization of the Las Vegas area and the swelling number of Latino and Asian voters are shifting Nevada to the left.
Keenly mindful of Heller’s bind, Rosen frequently showcases his conflicting positions. On Kavanaugh, she blasted his support for an FBI investigation while simultaneously pledging to confirm him. On health care, an issue that Democrats think will hold special resonance with voters this year, she slams him for opposing legislation that would have repealed the 2010 health care law only to author a measure a few months later scrapping the overhaul.
“He is guilty of one of the biggest broken promises,” Rosen said in an interview.
Rosen’s arguments, Heller’s campaign says, are …read more