Thursday, July 3, 2008 | 7:10 p.m.
WASHINGTON — The re-match between Republican Rep. Dean Heller and Jill Derby for the 2nd congressional seat just tightened a notch, so says the House analyst today at the Cook Political Report.
Cook upgraded the race in the mostly northern Nevada district from “solid” Republican to “likely” Republican, based in part on the Democratic Party’s willingness to spend money there.
Cook’s David Wasserman said the climate for Republicans in Nevada is also being harmed by the problems confronting Nevada’s Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.
“This is a race to watch,” said Wasserman. “In this kind of political environment we have to keep tabs on any race where there’s anything going on.”
Heller still clearly has the lead, Wasserman said. Republicans continue to outnumber Democrats in the district. Plus the conventional thinking still applies – that Heller carries clout as the incumbent and that Derby missed her best chance when she ran for the open seat in the Democratic wave of 2006. She lost by 5 percentage points.
“It’s still a safe seat for Heller,” Wasserman said. The rating change does not mean the race is competitive, but has the “potential to become engaged,” according to Cook’s report.
Wasserman explained that over the past month, the Democrats’ campaign committee “has indicated a stronger willingness to reach for seats that were once considered off the table.” The party recently declared Derby’s campaign an “emerging” race.
“You have to listen to party with the megaphone” he said.