Pundits see ‘split ticket’ in Nevada

With just two days before the election, two of Nevada’s most respected political observers say they expect Barack Obama to claim the state’s electoral votes over challenger Mitt Romney.But both Eric Herzik, chairman of the Political Science Department at University of Nevada, Reno, and Fred Lokken, dean of Webcollege at Truckee Meadows Community College and a political science professor, say they have doubts Obama’s support will help Shelley Berkley beat Dean Heller in the U.S. Senate race.The “split ticket” analysis was veteran Republican consultant Pete Ernaut’s take on those two races as well, in an interview on “Nevada Newsmakers” recently.Both Lokken and Herzik said they believe Sen. Harry Reid’s internal polling, which he said two weeks ago put Obama up by 4-5 points. Reid, in an interview in Carson City, was less confident about the Berkley-Heller race.“The Democrats’ argument is that if Obama win by enough, he can lift Shelley Berkley,” Herzik said.He said to do that, Obama will have to win by a lot more than 4 percent, which he said is a third of his 2008 margin.“Every Romney voter is going to vote for Heller, but not every Obama voter is going to vote for Berkley,” he said.Herzik said support for Obama doesn’t necessarily get votes for Berkley. He said when he analyzed Washoe County vote patterns after the 2008 election, he was shocked at how many voters turned out, voted for Obama but didn’t vote the rest of the ballot.“In Washoe County in 2008, a lot of people came for Obama and went home,” he said.“She’s not out of the game,” said Lokken, adding that Berkley is “viewed much more favorably” in Southern Nevada, which she has represented in Congress for a dozen years.And he said he has been told Heller still lacks some name recognition in the south.Lokken said Berkley won’t win the rurals but needs to stay close enough in Washoe County if she’s going to win. Heller, he said, needs to stay close enough in Las Vegas that a rural and Washoe victory will put him over the top.“The election is close but all the survey data has suggested Heller has a lead,” he said. “I think Berkley has a chance but it’s much heavier lifting than four years ago because Obama’s margin will be closer in Nevada.”Both men said the key to Obama’s victory is the “ground game” established over years by Sen. Reid and the Democrats.“For Romney in this state one would have expected much stronger performance except for the dysfunctional state of the Republican Party,” said Lokken. “The Democratic ground game has been infinitely stronger than the Republican.”Herzik said after a contentious primary, Romney had to begin trying to build that cadre of volunteers to hit the streets and the phones.“Yeah, you guys have done a very good job starting from scratch,” he said. “but you don’t have anybody working for you at the grassroots level and the Obama people have tons of people. The problem is the other team has been in place three elections now and that’s why Obama wins Nevada.”“Those things put you hideously behind,” said Lokken.In addition to the ground game and campaign organization, Herzik said whether the large number of new voters Democrats have registered in the past six months actually turn out and vote is key and both men said the Democrats seem to be winning that battle.More than 700,000 Nevadans cast ballots during early voting in advance of Tuesday’s general election, with nearly 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans voting in the battleground state.Fifty-six percent of the state’s 1.2 million registered voters took advantage of the two-week window for early voting that ended Friday night, Secretary of State Ross Miller said Saturday.A total of nearly 308,000 Democrats, or 44 percent of all early voters, already have cast ballots, compared with nearly 260,000 Republicans, or 37 percent. About 134,000 voters not registered with the parties account for the rest.SPLIT TICKETSSince 1956, Nevadans have “spit the ticket” five times when choosing a president and a senator during the same election.1956 ElectionPresident: Republican Dwight Eisenhower wins by 15,409 votesSenate: Democrat Alan Bible wins by 4,965 votes1968 ElectionPresident: Republican Richard Nixon wins by 12,590 votesSenate: Democrat Alan Bible wins by 14,554 votes1976 ElectionPresident: Republican Gerald Ford wins by 8,794 votesSenate: Democrat H.W. Cannon wins by 63,824 votes1988 ElectionPresident: Republican George H. W. Bush wins by 73,302 votesSenate: Democrat Richard Bryan wins by 14,212 votes2004 ElectionPresident: Republican George W. Bush wins by 21,500 votesSenate: Democrat Harry Reid wins by 210,165 votesSource: Political History of Nevada


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