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December 21, 2014

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National Journal: Minority population growth in Nevada could significantly affect Senate race

Demographic trends in Nevada, especially an exploding minority population (mostly Hispanics), could have a huge impact on the 2012 Senate race here, the National Journal reports today.

I previously reported Reid Wilson's findings here

But in a piece today behind the NJ paywall, savvy Hotline boss Wilson goes further into the data, with some help from a local observer. The piece is below; if you have $4,000 to spare, you can read more past the paywall and get all the data by clicking here

Here's some of what Wilson wrote:

It's hard to think of a starker contrast between 2 candidates than the one between Sen. Dean Heller (R), the horse-riding cowboy from Carson City, and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), the former cocktail waitress whose dad was the maitre d' at The Sands. Together, they paint a picture of NV's history -- and the divide candidates must navigate to win statewide.

An analysis of previously unreleased exit polls shows NV's minority population booming. Even though '10 candidate Sharron Angle beat Sen. Harry Reid by 9 points among non-college whites and by 13 among college-educated whites, Reid's 71%-27% win among minority voters pulled him across the finish line by 5 points. With Pres. Obama on the ballot in a WH year, that gives Dems hope for further growth; the party has the names of 24K registered voters with Hispanic surnames who didn't turn out in '10.

"That's why Democrats are trying to morph Heller into Angle and scare Latinos into Berkley's camp," says Jon Ralston, the go-to expert for NV politics. "If [Heller] loses by margin that Obama and Reid won by in last two elections, he will lose. He knows that. Hispanics are arguably the key to elections in this state now. (No wonder RNC has Latino outreach program and coordinator now.)"

But the GOP is making a comeback. Even as Reid beat Angle, Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) won statewide and Rep. Joe Heck (R) took over a competitive House district. Dems' voter registration gap has shrunk from a 100K advantage in '08 to a 48K advantage today, and party strategists point out that the ailing economy has severely slowed NV's population growth, largely among voters who would be predisposed toward Dems.

Then, there's the geography, um, angle. Dems must run up the score in Clark Co., while Heller needs a strong showing in Washoe, his home base. Angle couldn't beat Reid in Washoe, and GOPers are confident Heller will do better in an area in which Berkley is still introducing herself (Heller, meanwhile, will run up the score in conservative rural stretches of the state). But past election results show Heller hasn't always been strong in his home area when he faces a credible Dem.

"Will [Heller] run better in Washoe than Angle? I would think so," Ralston told us. "But by how much? Too early to tell. But key number also what he gets in Clark. Most Dems think Berkley needs to get at least what Reid got, maybe a little more. They fear what GOP hopes: She will not play that well in Washoe. Reid at least had long history of doling out pork, doing water agreement up there. She has nothing. Tough for her. I'd say Dems are concerned, if not worried."

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