With the battle for the Senate heating up, the attention has swung to Nevada. A key Senate race, the Republican path to the Senate majority runs through Nevada, while Democrats don’t want to lose a state they’ve come to see as their own. Nevada Senate odds currently have Republicans as a solid favorite to win the seat. We’ll analyze if that’s accurate.
The battle for the Silver State will be key, and Americans can bet on it legally with PredictIt.
Nevada Senate Odds: Party To Win
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Handicapping Nevada Senate Odds
Nevada’s one of the weirdest states in the US, with nearly 70% of the state in one county. Clark, the county that has Vegas and the southern suburbs, isn’t the only thing that matters, but it’s close. In 2016, the last time this Senate race was contested, Democrats actually won the state while only winning Clark, and losing every other county.
Washoe, the county in the north with Reno, has been getting better for Democrats, which helped offset weakness in Clark in 2020. That dynamic – Democrats bleeding with working class voters in Vegas, but doing better with educated voters in Reno – is key to understanding the state.
The state is heavily socially liberal – 68% of the state is pro-choice, per the 2020 exit polls. The non-Reno, non-Vegas rurals are heavily conservative, but with the fact that there aren’t many people in those states, what matters is the cities. And it’s the biggest city that makes this competitive.
Vegas was an issue for Democrats in 2020, because of both pandemic specific issues and general Democratic malaise with Hispanic voters. Because of Vegas’ nature, and the heavily multi-ethnic working class that makes up the Vegas service sector, Democrats were overexposed to non-degree holding Hispanics.
Those voters were the worst for Joe Biden, compared to 2016, which made Nevada fairly weak for Democrats. It barely swung left from Clinton to Biden, in large part because weakness in Vegas eliminated most of Biden’s progress in Reno.
The good news for Democrats is that Hispanic voters haven’t swung more right since 2020. There have been multiple national polls of Hispanic voters only this cycle, and all of them suggest that Democrats have a lead in the 20-30% range – essentially as well as 2020, given the various estimates of Hispanic support for Biden.
So, if Hispanics aren’t trending right, then why does Adam Laxalt have a polling lead?
Polls Surrounding Nevada Senate Odds
One simple reason – Nevada polls (almost) always underestimate Democrats.
In 2008, 2010, 2012, 2016, and 2018, Democrats beat their polls in Nevada – including in years where the GOP generally beat their polls or years where the polls were broadly accurate.
What happens is statewide Nevada polls have historically underestimated the Democratic share of the vote with Hispanics, but polled Nevada’s white population well, leading to Democrats beating their polls.
2020 saw that trend reverse, but with Vegas being more service-reliant (and therefore, lockdown-sensitive), it’s hard to know whether that was signal or just COVID noise.
What we do know is that if Democrats can rely on roughly equivalent to 2020 Hispanic support, and Nevada is one of the states with the fewest rural white voters, then the way they’d lose Nevada is by losing support with educated, degree-holding whites. And that’s just not happening.
We know from the post-Dobbs special elections that the recent global trends are not just not continuing, but they’re accelerating. We know that’s even true in states with abortion protections already in place, from the two New York special elections. And we know that there are a lot of pockets of educated, white voters who still vote GOP in Nevada.
The GOP used to win through educated white voters in places like Reno and Henderson voting with the party while Democrats got huge margins with minorities in Vegas. Now, Republicans can’t rely on Henderson and Reno giving them as many votes.
Unless the GOP continue to gain with Hispanic voters, they don’t have a path to winning the state if the Global Realignment of educated socially liberal whites doesn’t reverse. Given that it is showing no signs of abating, the GOP need to find the votes they need with Hispanics.
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Is Adam Laxalt, the former GOP Attorney General, going to get those votes against a Hispanic incumbent Senator? It’s hard to say that it’s particularly likely. Laxalt lost in 2018 running for Governor, while Catherine Cortez-Masto took over the seat vacated by Harry Reid’s retirement in 2016.
With a Democratic incumbent of a Hispanic heritage, it would be logical that Democrats will be in decent shape for a good result with Hispanic voters – in the same way that concerns about Democratic turnout amongst Black voters in Georgia are assuaged by running Black candidates.
If that happens, the GOP need to flip Biden voters who were, in all likelihood, in a worse economic time in November 2020 than they are, even with inflation. Unlike most places, it is nearly impossible to make the case that the economy in Vegas was better in 2020 than today, because there was functionally no travel in 2020.
With the specific vagaries of Vegas, the idea the GOP are going to be able to put together the votes to swing the state are almost impossible to make. Throw in the fact that the polls almost always underestimate Democrats, then there’s nothing to say the GOP should be this big of favorites.
This price is absurd.
Even if you believe the GOP are favored, there is no way this price is correct.
PredictIt is currently pricing Nevada like they would a midwestern state with a history of polls underestimating the GOP. If this were Wisconsin, I’d understand the price. But in Nevada, the idea of just adding points to the GOP’s polled margins is not correct.
The GOP could easily win the state, but Democrats are no worse than underdogs, and if you want to adjust the polls for their historical biases, they’re small, but clear, favorites.
This price is the victory of overestimating the pace of change, because the GOP have a very good long-term argument to win Nevada but their short-term path, against a Hispanic incumbent, doesn’t seem to exist.
Democrats are small favorites to win a state they are priced as substantial underdogs in. If that’s not value, I don’t know what is.