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Nevada's Senate race catches early national attention with focus on Cortez Masto, Laxalt

Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Adam Laxalt
Associated Press
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Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Adam Laxalt

Nevada’s outsized importance in the 2022 election is once again the focus of national media attention as reporters and pundits size up the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Though there will be a primary, it looks like it’ll be Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto against Republican Adam Laxalt.

If recent polls are accurate, the race remains quite close.

John L. Smith said Cortez Masto reflects President Joe Biden, however she's portrayed in opponent messaging as "practically a socialist."

"He's gonna have to really start talking about the issues he believes in," Smith said of Laxalt. "If Donald Trump appears to gain more steam with the party, then maybe [aligning himself with Trump will] benefit him."

He said Cortez Masto will need to be careful to make sure when she boosts her numbers, her accomplishments do not go too far. He used one of her support PACs as an example, who gave her credit for things that hadn't passed yet.

The Laxalt name "is a bell he can ring" in Northern Nevada, Smith said, and he has leaned on anti-big government themes. In the meantime, he notes Cortez Masto worked hard on the infrastructure bill, which will result in billions to Nevada for road and bridge repairs. 

"Certainly, Chuck Schumer needs her in the Senate, as does President Biden. And so you see the money coming into her coffers, about $10 million at the first of the year. She's starting to spend it now because now she's starting to kind of paint the images of her campaign over the next few weeks and month," he said.

Smith said Laxalt has had a "very trackable philosophy" that's reflect the Federalist Society. 

"It'll be interesting to see if he goes out on the stump more in public, where the press is likely to want to listen to what he has to say and want to ask him some questions. Because to date, he really has avoided larger crowds," he said.

Why is the race close? Smith said the "Harry Reid machine ... was an overstatement." 

"Nevada has been and continues to be a very purple state. And oftentimes when it goes more Republican, it's because the Democrats have failed to fire on all their cylinders. They have voters registered, but you still have to go to vote," he said.

John L. Smith, Nevada Public Radio contributor

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Lorraine Blanco Moss is the host of KNPR's award-winning Asian American Pacific Islander podcast, Exit Spring Mountain. She's also a producer for State of Nevada, specializing in food and hospitality, women's issues, and sports. She started at Nevada Public Radio in October 2021.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She oversees and writes State of Nevada’s online and social media content.