2018 Senate highlight race: Arizona and Nevada

Arizona

Incumbent: Jeff Flake (R)

Last party margin: 49.2-46.2

Senator Jeff Flake is one of the most endangered Republican incumbents in the 2018 cycle. Ever since his vote against Manchin-Toomey amendment (expanding universal background check on all gun purchases), his approval rating has been trending low. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in 2013 has showed Flake having one of the worst approval ratings in the nation–with just 32% approving and a whopping 51% disapproving. A Morning Consult poll also showed Flake to be one of the least popular senators.

Also conducted by Public Policy, a poll this May showed Flake up only 2 points with Kyrsten Sinema, a prominent Arizona Democrat. Although Sinema is a member of the Blue Dogs coalition, her voting record is nowhere near Jim Matheson, a prominent Utah Democrat and potential candidate to run for the open seat in 2018. According to Ballotpedia, her voting record is moderately left of center and largely voted along the party line. Combining Flake’s one-of-lowest-approval in the nation and his lackluster polling number, we rate this race Leans R pending Trump’s approval numbers for any further rating.

 

Nevada

Incumbent: Dean Heller (R)

Last margin: 45.9-44.7

Unlike Flake and McCaskill, Heller’s approval rating is more modest. In the same poll that showed Jeff Flake down 19 points in approval rating, it showed Heller up three points 44-41.  However, in his 2012 campaign, Heller promised to be bipartisan and independent. Voting records have not shown that. Heller’s records indicate his stance is much to the right of Shelley Moore Capito, who is seen as a “moderate conservative” in her party, but Morning Consult approval poll shows Heller up 26 points with 48 percent approving and 22 percent disapproving. (Morning Consult and PPP are different polls, and they yield vastly different results.)

I used to comment this race as strongly leaning Republican, as I thought Clinton winning the presidential election was all but assured, pushing a R-wave considering her less-than-modest approval numbers, but Trump winning completely changed Senate calculus for 2018. This race starts as a Tossup. 

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