Boom or bust for GOP in Nevada?

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If you spend any time in Nevada these days, it’s hard to miss Harry Reid’s non-stop pummeling of Republican challenger Sharron Angle.  With so much money pouring into this U.S. Senate race, we can expect more of the same through November 2nd.  Still, Angle-Reid is not the only fight on the Silver State ticket this fall — in some sense, it’s not even the most important race, even if it is the loudest and nastiest.

Because Nevada is expected to pick up an additional seat in the U.S. House based on the forthcoming Census numbers, the battle to draw the district lines has the potential to alter the political landscape not just in Nevada, but in Washington as well.  A more even-handed drawing of the political map could change the dynamics of Silver State politics for an entire decade, long after the rest of us are saying “Harry Who”?  Certainly, if Brian Sandoval can win the governorship for the GOP and the Republicans can also flip control of the Nevada Senate, the party would have the upper hand in determining how GOP-friendly the new Congressional seat might be.  Likewise, Republicans have had tough sledding in the Nevada Assembly, where the Democrats currently hold a 2-1 advantage.  Right now Sandoval is polling very well, the Republicans need to net only 2 seats to retake the Nevada Senate majority, and chances are good for the GOP to take several Assembly seats vacated by term-limited incumbents — so the 2011 outlook in Carson City looks favorable for Republicans.

Of course, with all of Harry Reid’s attempts to knock Sharron Angle to the canvas, her campaign can use all of the support it can get from the under-card races.  If the popularity of the Republicans running for U.S. House, statewide office and the Nevada legislature can draw in enthusiastic supporters, Angle might pick up the votes she needs to outlast the Reid machine.  Angle is running hard, but the tailwind generated by every other Republican campaign in Nevada could push her across the finish line on Election Day.

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are the co-founders of ProjectVirginia and CivicForumPAC.