RENO, Nev. (AP) – Advertisements about the attack are already being broadcast, and emails about fundraising for the campaign are arriving in mailboxes when Nevada hosts one of the most competitive US Senate races in the country, where candidates will juggle constant concerns about election fairness and inflation which is growing at the fastest pace in decades.
The fight between incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortes Masta and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt will depend on the candidates’ ties to both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, political observers say.
Laxalt, the grandson of a former U.S. senator from Nevada, co-chaired Trump’s campaign in Nevada and led failed trials to overturn the state’s 2020 election results based on false allegations of election fraud.
His campaign has received support from top Republican leaders including Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
A few days before the primaries, Laxalt held rallies with Donald Trump Jr. and denying the results of the 2020 election in Las Vegas and Carson City.
In 2020, Biden won in Nevada by just over two percentage points. The state rejected all Republican presidential candidates after George W. Bush in 2004.
Unknowns ahead of the November election include how Trump’s support will affect voters, whether Cortes Masta will turn to Biden for help, and whether Republican campaigns and Democrats will be able to reach nonpartisan voters.
According to the latest data from the Secretary of State’s office, the number of Democratic voters is slightly higher than the Republicans in Nevada. The state also has more than 627,000 non-partisan voters who can change the outcome anyway.
Cortes Masta, who is the first Latin American to serve in the Senate, won six years ago as the chosen successor to longtime Senate Democrat leader Harry Reed. She had the support of Reed’s formidable political machine.
Today, she is seen as a vulnerable leader whose loss in a year-long election could bring the Senate under Republican control.
Earlier, the candidates moved to the center as part of their post-primary strategy, said Christina Ladam, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada-Rhino.
“Indeed, since 2016, we have seen candidates in the general election hold more extreme views,” she said, especially conservative candidates.
Mobilizing a party base or appealing to voters is a question that all campaigns should ask when they move to the primaries, said Dan Lee, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Linking Cortes Bridge to broader topics including the Biden administration, rising gas prices and inflation, Lee said Republicans could potentially do both.
“That’s essentially what they were doing at the primaries,” he said. “If they didn’t attack the candidates (Republican primaries), they attacked Biden and democratic politics.”
In his triumphant speech in the casino hall, away from the sounds of slot machines, Laxalt turned to his base and ridiculed what he called “Biden-Bridge’s vision of America.”
“She worked very hard to serve the progressive left in Washington, DC,” Laxalt said from a rostrum where large screens nearby were tuned to Fox News.
He accused Cortes Masta of being “a stamp for a radical ideology that attacks our values, our culture and the very fabric of our nation.”
He spoke out against high gas prices and inflation, open borders and human trafficking. He hinted at gun control measures imposed by Democrats after the mass shootings. Calling Biden and Cortes Masta, he accused the “radical elites” of a failed policy.
For her part, Cortes Masta often distanced herself from her party and instead conveyed the message that she said she had brought it to Nevada. Her company pointed to federal support to reduce unemployment from levels before the pandemic.
In election campaigns, speeches and publicity, Cortes Masta dismissed Laxalt, believing he was committed to fossil fuels since he worked for a law firm in Washington, D.C., which has clients of oil companies. She also called him corrupt for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 Nevada presidential election and tried to put him in conflict with women voters because of his stance on abortion.
She wrote Laxalt as a man “for himself, not for Nevada.”
The morning after the primaries, Cortes Masta’s ad attacked Laxalt, accusing him of blocking a state investigation into ExxonMobil when he was attorney general in 2016. The ad linked $ 2.5 million that Laxalt received to his gubernatorial campaign in 2018 to oil companies and wealthy conservative political campaigns. donors of the Koch brothers.
Laxalt, who ended his election campaign with mostly commercials showing that he stands with Trump, hastened to deploy his own commercials to start the general election race. In it, the narrator talks about the “chaos on our streets”, dangerous borders, inflation and dependence on foreign oil, showing a picture of Cortes Masta and Biden standing side by side.
Gabe Stern is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Reporting for America is a nonprofit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report problems undercover. Follow Gabe on Twitter here.