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VICTOR JOECKS: Why Nevada looks especially bad for Democrats

You know things are bad for Nevada Democrats when even The New York Times is sounding the alarm.

Last week, the Times reported that Nevada “has become the epitome of the party’s midterm difficulties.” That would be a sharp break from the last decade, when Nevada Democrats won most major races. The one exception was 2014, during Barack Obama’s second term. Nevada Democrats currently control both U.S. Senate seats, three of the four congressional seats and most statewide offices, including governor.

This year, the Times notes, Republicans could win every federal race in Nevada and the governor’s mansion. This is one instance in which the corporate media have it right. The bad outlook for Democrats nationally is magnified in Nevada.

Start with gasoline prices. On Tuesday, the average price in Nevada was $5.17 a gallon. That’s approaching $2 more per gallon than last April. Nevadans pay around $1 more per gallon than the national average and face the third-highest prices in the country.

Go figure that Nevada voters might be especially interested in lower gasoline prices. But Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto worked to limit oil and gas production. She sponsored a bill to end some oil and gas leases. In 2019, she spearheaded a letter attacking the Department of Interior’s efforts to speed up oil and gas leasing and permitting. She also decried the department’s “reckless push for so-called ‘energy dominance.’ ”

Energy dominance sounds pretty good right about now.

The high prices hurt more because Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. That’s a lingering side effect of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s prolonged business shutdowns.

The best way for politicians to protect themselves from a bad national environment is to have their own brand. That’s why Sen. Joe Manchin can win as a Democrat in West Virginia. Voters see him as an individual, not as an extension of his party.

But Cortez Masto is a reliable vote for Biden’s agenda. The data site FiveThirtyEight says she’s voted for his position 95.5 percent of the time. She voted for the American Rescue Plan, which greatly contributed to the runaway inflation that voters see every time they go to a grocery store.

Cortez Masto doesn’t have an outsized personality to distinguish herself, either. As the Times charitably puts it, she has a “longtime aversion to publicity.” Rep. Dina Titus is probably Nevada’s best-known House Democrat. But legislative Democrats made her district substantially more Republican during redistricting, putting even her in electoral danger.

Nevada’s growing Latino population was supposed to keep the state trending blue for years to come. But polling shows Hispanic voters strongly disapprove of Biden’s job performance.

Nevada Democrats supported same-day voter registration and automatic registration at the DMV. Those measures were supposed to help them politically. This November, however, late-deciding voters are likely to favor the GOP — which is not a reason to ignore the problems inherent in those laws.

Democrats’ advantage will likely be financial. They’ve generally raised significantly more money than their Republican opponents. But advertising is unlikely to make voters forget what they paid at the pump or the grocery store.

Biden is unlikely to have a successful presidency. But turning Nevada red would be an impressive accomplishment.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com.

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