The new Public Policy Polling survey out of Nevada shows a far different dynamic with respect to its longtime Democratic Senator than what played out in Connecticut. There, when Chris Dodd decided to retire, Democratic fortunes immediately blossomed. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal stepped into the race and is leading all challengers by 35 points at a minimum. The problem was not Democrats in Connecticut, but Dodd’s personal favorability.

That’s the opposite of what’s happening in Nevada. You know by now that Harry Reid has a huge uphill battle in the state, with low approval ratings and projected losses to his largely unknown challengers by a margin of close to 10 points. But when you replace Reid with some of the other prominent Democrats in Nevada, the margin doesn’t change.

On the topic of Reid we did find pretty much what the other polls have been finding-
36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one
against Danny Tarkanian.

PPP tested Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, and
Secretary of State Ross Miller as possible alternatives to Reid.

Goodman comes out the best, leading Lowden 42-40 and tied with Tarkanian at 41. 43%
of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him to 21% unfavorable, and he’s
viewed positively by Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

Berkley and Miller both post numbers pretty similar to Reid. Berkley trails Lowden and
Tarkanian by identical eight point margins and Miller has a 10 point deficit against
Tarkanian and an 11 point one against Lowden.

Berkley, Miller, Tarkanian, and Lowden are all relatively unknown to voters in the state
with a plurality offering ‘no opinion’ about each of them.

What PPP doesn’t say is that Goodman is strongly considering the Nevada governor’s race, as an independent. He’s simply not a Democratic alternative. The poll actually picks up a structural shift from Democrats to Republicans in Nevada which is hurting all Democrats basically equally. Nevada is hurting economically, and despite a Republican governor, Democrats are bearing the brunt of that anger and pain.

There are some caveats to this. The biggest one is that Nevada, particularly in the major population center of Las Vegas, has a very transient population, making it hard to poll because the voter pool constantly changes. Nevada was expected to be a toss-up during the 2008 Presidential election, and then Barack Obama won easily, by 10 points. So to the extent that there is an under-sampling of Democrats due to new voters coming in, that would help all potential Democratic options, not just everyone but Reid.

President Obama has a 44/52 job approval in the poll, and that pretty much mirrors Reid’s performance. That seems to me to be the biggest story in this poll. Under this voter model, Democrats have lost Nevada, and whether or not Reid runs for Senate is of no consequence.

…Meanwhile, I should point out Reid’s latest comments in the New York Times magazine story, where he both admits that Joe Lieberman double-crossed him and that he maybe shouldn’t have counted on Olympia Snowe’s vote for health care (although I don’t really think that was his call). You can argue with Reid’s fitness for leadership, given that display. But unlike the Dodd seat, there’s no real benefit to Reid dropping out, if this poll is to be believed.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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