Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen defeated Republican Sen. Dean Heller on Tuesday, validating the long-held presumption that Heller was the most vulnerable GOP incumbent.
This is important because: Democrats didn’t have many opportunities to gain ground in the Senate, so knocking Heller off deals a serious blow to Republicans’ efforts to expand their Senate majority.
Who is Jacky Rosen? Republicans believed that Heller’s experience and name recognition in the state, contrasted with Rosen’s relative anonymity, would allow them to set a narrative of her before she got her campaign off the ground.
But the former synagogue president stuck close in the polls with Heller throughout, attacking his record on health care and accusing him of flip-flopping to put the will of President Donald Trump above the people of Nevada, and withstanding attacks that she hadn't accomplished enough in Congress or that she was more aligned with costal elite liberals than the people in her state.
What went wrong for Heller? Heller may have simply found himself in the wrong state at the wrong time. He’s had a target on his back since Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016, although he maintained what appeared to be a narrow lead in most polls throughout the race.
There may have been some complacency within the Republican Party and among voters about his ability to hold the seat, reflected in how significantly Rosen out-fundraised him throughout the race. As he said the week before the election, he and other Republicans were facing a “green wave.”
Democrats also sent all their heavy hitters to Nevada in the final weeks of the race, with visits from former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) possibly pushing Rosen over the top.
About $98 million was spent by both candidates in the race, most of that coming from outside groups. Rosen brought in $21 million, while Heller raised $14 million.
What kind of senator will she be? One of Rosen’s talking points in the race was that she has a proven record in the House of working with Republicans to reach bipartisan solutions. So, in theory, Rosen could be a moderate senator, but Republicans have their doubts that the hand-picked candidate of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will do anything but obstruct the Republican agenda.