Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why Nevada Has Been Becoming a Blue State

So the election is over. And there is quite a bit of Blue on our map. So what is our state now? I think we all know the answer... But don't tell certain campaign consultants and media figures (afraid of losing all that big campaign cash).

Rest easy, Nevada. We’re still a battleground state.

At least so say political operatives on both sides of the aisle.

Admittedly, they may have a bit of a vested interest in saying so. Presidential battleground status opens the spigot to tens of millions of advertising dollars. [...]

President Barack Obama last week won Nevada convincingly for the second time. In fact, his margins in 2008 and 2012 far exceeded former President George W. Bush’s Nevada margins in 2000 and 2004.

Democrats have 90,000 more registered voters than Republicans. They have a well-financed party structure in place — an organization noticeably absent on the Republican side. And they have control of the state Legislature.

Some might say that doesn’t sound like the metrics of a true swing state.

Indeed, it’s starting to sound a lot like New Mexico — previously a battleground state before turning convincingly blue beginning about four years ago and disappearing from the presidential campaign radar screen.

Indeed, our similarity to New Mexico is quite striking. So are we there yet?

Perhaps not. But at the very least, Nevada is now at roughly the same place on the political spectrum as Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania: "swing states" that are increasingly out of reach for Republicans due to organizational weakness and ideological rigidity.

By contrast, a large number of electorally critical states – both traditional swing states like Iowa and Pennsylvania and newer ones like Colorado and Nevada – have been Democratic-leaning in the past two elections. If Democrats lose the election in a blowout, they would probably lose these states as well. But in a close election, they are favored in them.

The Republican Party will have four years to adapt to the new reality. Republican gains among Hispanic voters could push Colorado and Nevada back toward the tipping point, for example.

States like Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Iowa are overwhelmingly white – but also highly educated, with fairly progressive views on social policy. If Republicans moderated their tone on social issues, they might be more competitive in these states, while regaining ground in Northern Virginia and in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Finally, some of the Democrats’ apparent advantage in the swing states may reflect Mr. Obama’s voter targeting and turnout operations –which were superior, by most accounts, to John McCain’s in 2008 and Mr. Romney’s in 2012.

It is not my job to give advice, but the next Republican nominee might be well served to remember that the party won the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote in 2000, when George W. Bush and Karl Rove put more emphasis on the “ground game.” But the Republicans seemed to be at a disadvantage in the last two years when their candidates put less of an investment into it.

If the parties continue down the same paths, however, this won’t be the last election when most of the swing states turn blue.

Nate Silver makes a very good point here. Republicans can at least theoretically turn back this tide by moving closer to policy sanity and investing in a better ground game. But unless and until they do that, Nevada, along with these other peripheral and increasingly Blue tinted "swing states", will continue to be favorable territory for Democrats.

Now certainly, this does NOT mean that Nevada Democrats can now sit back and rest on their laurels. The NV-Sen and NV-03 races of this cycle certainly serve as cautionary tales. Against flawed candidates who struggle to define themselves and use a strong message, Republicans can still eke out wins here.

But again, Dean Heller is now "Mr. 46%". And Joe Heck barely crossed over 50%. And despite all the Republican Legislature Leaders' efforts to smear Vaseline on the camera, they still failed to retake the State Senate and grow their ranks in the Assembly. And perhaps most notably, Steven Horsford convincingly beat back a well funded right-wing effort to elect Danny Tarkanian in NV-04. Nevada most definitely has been changing.

And this leads us to the other reason why Republicans have been losing their grip over Nevada: Demographics. Clearly, Nevada Republicans paid a price for their support for "The War on Women", extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Latin@ policies, discrimination against LGBTQ families, and additional policies that alienate historically oppressed minorities. Now that these minority communities are becoming "majority makers", Republicans are in deep trouble.

And Nevada remains a Blue State.

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