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August 20, 2014

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election 2012:

It’s almost over! Here’s what to watch for as polls close tonight

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Steve Marcus

Voters wait in line at an early voting site at the Chinatown Mall on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012.

Election Day Voting in Las Vegas 2012

Stanley Hollman, a bartender at the Mandalay Bay, votes on election day at the Fremont Middle School gym Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Without a ride but determined to vote, Hollman set off to the polls on his skateboard. A co-worker in a car spotted him on the way and gave him a ride for part of the journey, he said. STEVE MARCUS Launch slideshow »

After today, it’s over.

Nevada voters have had to endure a marathon this election cycle, with a constant Democratic campaign machine on one side and that extended Republican primary — oh, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, how we miss you — on the other.

Both sides have spent an unprecedented amount nationally. President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have raised about $1 billion apiece. In Nevada, where a concerted battle has played out for our six presidential electoral votes, we’ve seen more than our share of candidate visits and television ads.

Piled on top of that have been a brutal U.S. Senate race waged on television, two highly competitive congressional races and five state Senate races across the state. So much mail was sent, you’d think the U.S. Postal Service would now be flush.

So, after more than a year of campaigning, here’s what to watch for on Election Day in Nevada.

Will the “Harry Reid Machine” hold up?

President Barack Obama enters Election Day as the favorite to win Nevada.

With 90,000 more active registered Democrats than Republicans, that’s perhaps no surprise. But how did we get here? Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, underwater houses, bankruptcy. It would seem to be a prime spot for the old campaign mantra, “throw the bums out.”

One of the main reasons for Democrats’ strength in Nevada is the state Democratic Party organization, which has been able to capitalize on changing state demographics to register likely Democratic voters — including a big outreach in the growing Hispanic community — and turn them out.

As a result, the party has been able to build an early voting “firewall” of 50,000 voters over Republicans.

But Republicans believe they can overtake them on Election Day by driving turnout and winning nonpartisan voters — who make up about 20 percent of the electorate.

If Republicans can capture Nevada’s six electoral votes for Romney, it will be one of the biggest upsets in Nevada history. Headlines will likely read: "Parachuting GOP machine defeats vaunted organization built by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid."

If Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley can weather her ethics scandals well enough to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller — one of the Nevada Republican Party’s few golden boys — it will be because of the Democratic machine.

When Nevada polls close at 7 p.m. ...

Around 7:30 p.m., early vote results will be posted by the Nevada Secretary of State and county registrars.

Because the majority of voters have cast ballots, early voting results will tell us a lot about who will have a strong showing on election night.

When the first numbers hit, look for three key indicators:

• How big of an advantage does Obama have over Romney in Clark County? In early voting turnout, Democrats had an almost 70,000 voter advantage. If that advantage translates to actual votes, or if nonpartisans added substantially to that total, Obama likely has the state wrapped up.

• What are the results in Washoe County? Turnout was virtually even in the swing county. If Romney can win it by any significant margin, he may be able to use strength in the rurals and Election Day turnout to punch a hole in the Democrats' firewall.

• Also watch whether Obama voters punched the ticket for the president and then stopped, or whether they trickled down ballot and supported Berkley. Heller acknowledged Monday he needs Obama voters to vote for him. And he also needs to win heavily in Northern Nevada.

And what about the rest of the nation? Polls on the East Coast start closing as early as 4 p.m. Pacific time, including in the key swing states of Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Vote counting will likely take time — especially in Ohio, which is expected to come down to a razor-thin margin.

Even if the count goes quickly, however, networks generally hold off calling the presidential race until polls close on the West Coast.

Congress

Nevada has four congressional races, two of which are competitive.

In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican, is facing Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, a Democrat. The race is perhaps even more caustic than the Berkley-Heller race.

The district has about 8,000 more Democrats than Republicans, but Heck is still the favorite in this race.

The real House drama will be in the 4th Congressional District, where Republican Danny Tarkanian has launched his fourth bid for office. His opponent: Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford.

The new congressional seat’s voter registration advantage heavily favors Democrats, by about 40,000 voters. But Tarkanian has a recognizable last name (he’s the son of UNLV’s iconic former basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian) and Horsford’s past missteps have clearly hurt him.

The eclectic district is home to quintessentially urban North Las Vegas as well as vast swaths of rural Nevada — making it a difficult one to peg.

By any available metric Horsford should be running away with this race, but polls indicate he’s doing anything but.

This will be one of the most closely watched races of the night.

State legislative races: Money or voter registration?

They might not have the same exposure as the national races, but these state legislative races arguably have a more direct effect on the state’s education system, taxes and other policy (no talking on your cellphone while driving, for example) than federal races.

The top stake: Which party controls the state Senate?

Republicans and many business interests have invested heavily in taking control of the state Senate, where Democrats hold an 11-10 lead. All Republican candidates have outraised their Democratic counterparts, and Gov. Brian Sandoval has raised more than $800,000 to help them.

But in most of the races, Democrats have voter registration advantages and are banking that the state Democratic Party machine pushes them over the finish line.

For Republicans to take the majority — and give Sandoval a foothold in the Legislature — they will have to win four out of five of the competitive Senate races. To retain their majority, Democrats need to win two of the races.

Those races are:

Senate District 18, which pits Republican Assemblyman Scott Hammond against Democrat Kelli Ross. With the voter registration statistics, this is the safest Republican seat and most unlikely for Democrats to win.

Senate District 15, where Republican Sen. Greg Brower is trying to fight off Sheila Leslie, who resigned her safe Democratic seat midterm to challenge Brower and help the Democratic field. This is one of the most expensive legislative races in state history, with Brower spending $700,000 this year and Leslie spending $500,000.

In Senate District 6, Democratic businessman Benny Yerulshalmi, in his second bid for the state Senate, is running against Republican Mark Hutchison, an attorney who represented the state against Obamacare and is looking to raise his profile.

Senate District 5 pits Democratic former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse against former Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican.

Senate District 9, where attorney Justin Jones is going against former GOP spokeswoman Mari Nakashima St. Martin.

The Nevada Assembly will almost certainly stay in Democratic hands — they held a 26 to 16 advantage in 2011 — but Republicans hope they can expand their numbers into the high teens.

But Assembly Republicans have invested heavily to take out Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas. An upset here would have huge implications for legislative leadership next year.

Anjeanette Damon contributed to this story.

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  1. Why is it the Sun making it like Romney can win Nevada?

    The numbers don't show Romney can win Nevada. The math does not add up. The early voting is solid for the President.

  2. NVFisherman...

    Today will be a bitter pill.
    I'm thinking it won't improve your disposition.

  3. Osama is dead and that's good enough for me!

  4. In a little while, heading off to vote. Can't wait to absolutely crush the Tea/Republican Party all up and down the ballot with my vote for Democratic Party candidates ONLY. Call me partisan all you want. Don't care. The Tea/Republicans started this debacle America is in, now I'm going to help end it.

    I can already smell desperation on the part of Tea/Republicans here in Nevada. I saw some stupid article where Heller stated that even though people will vote Obama/Biden, essentially writing off Romney/Ryan as a loss, he believed to his very soul they would cut across party lines and vote for him over Berkley.

    Huh?

    Answer me this: How can someone vote for President Obama, a man who has done his best in the past for this nation in trying to move us forward, but then also vote for Heller, a man who has voted against every single thing the President advocates...not because of the issue, but because he's TOLD by the Tea/Republican leadership to make sure he fails?

    Really dumb to vote for more debacle.

    I guess what I'm saying is there WILL be a down ballot effect. We been to Hell. I don't see a need to go Heller.

    If you ain't done it yet, come join me today. Get out there and vote, people. Lemme remind you that you are not authorized to complain about any damn thing if you don't exercise your right as an American citizen.

    Can't wait to contribute to the utter destruction of the entire Tea/Republican Party with my votes. Gotta do my part. This time I'm not only voting smart, but I'm voting angry.

  5. The BIGGEST mistake EVER....has been this SUPER PAC.It is no longer a case the candidate gets in on the strength of his "own" merits.But to think nearly $2 BILLION...two BILLION dollars have been raised from massive multi-million dollar contributors.This was a BILLIONAIRES campaign this time round and it will get worse the next time.People everywhere need to step back and just think for a moment what TWO BILLION dollars could do to this state and others like it.This is not an election for the PEOPLE and it is recently NOT BY THE PEOPLE.

  6. Seems like a reasonable article and makes sense. Doesn't appear to be biased at all which is surprising. Can't wait to see the outcome. Longtimevegan you didn't post you catch phrase 6 to 8 points is that because you have stopped believing it?

  7. Pundits are saying that independents "leaning" for Romney (even in Nevada) are hesitant to admit it to the pollsters--tired of being falsely accused of racism--as if voting for the better candidate is racist. Also, union members are hesitant to admit to others that they've had enough fantasy-Obama hype.

  8. Polls, pundits, experts, whatever - NO ONE really knows what the outcome will be today other than we can all agree - it will be very close election. You can either believe all the "hype" or not. I stopped listening weeks ago (last night on TV was horrendous with the political ads! It seemed as if they took every single ad from the last 6 months and showed them all last night! And in our area, we get the stuff from all the politicans from TWO States.) This election could very well be a repeat of the 2000 Election - one wins the popular vote and the other actually wins the Presidency because of Electoral vote.

    It is raining and cold here in Illinois and I figured it would hurt voter turnout. I went at 10:15 this morning and was SHOCKED at the lines!!! There had to be about 100-125 people in line!! One of the election judges said when the polls first opened this morning, the lines extended way out in this rather large parking lot; people stood in the pouring rain. This morning I saw young moms and dads with their little ones, taking the kids with them instead of one of them not going to vote and staying home to babysit. I saw elderly people in wheelchairs and with canes; I saw veterans, college students, a few Muslims, the well-to-do and the not so well-to-do. Saw a bunch of my neighbors. It was America at it's best - no matter who wins.

    I didn't realize this but Illinois is the ONLY State that does not have "Conceal Carry" laws. It was on the ballot today. Curious to see what happens with that.

  9. chuck333

    I guess that was unintentional and I didn't mean it the way it sounded - yeah there were blacks, hispanics and I'm sure Catholics, Protestants and Mormons and Italians and Irish but I never saw a Muslim at a polling place before. Not even in Chicago. Those that I posted about earlier were those that I saw in the general area where I was standing. We have a pretty large population of Muslims here and I guess it should not have surprised me in the least. My apartment complex is right next to the area Mosque. We all got a chuckle from this one mom; she came with her son and it was his first time voting. She was sorry she didn't bring her phone or camera to take a picture of him on this "special occassion". The poor kid nearly died of embarrassment! What I was trying to say it was a cross section of America and the rain didn't stop anyone. It was good to see. It was better than listening to the pundits, experts, polls, political ads, etc. because THAT is what matters - the people.