Nevada Newsmakers

News - May 11, 2016 - by Ray Hagar

A leading Nevada political science professor said presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has brought new people into the Republican Party, although the "Trump effect" could be outdone in Nevada with Latino voters flocking to Democrats.

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, said the Latino vote in Nevada could became as much as 15 to 20 percent of the state's electorate for the 2016 general election in November.

"If you get somewhere between 15 or 20 percent (Latino percentage of the electorate), because they are about 15 percent of the electorate, they would be turning out at the level you'd except for them," Herzik said. "That is good news for the Democrats. That counterbalances against all of those new voters that are supposedly going to show up for Trump. So you would have 40 percent (of Nevada's electorate) Democrats and 35 percent Republican, realizing the Latinos are part of the Democratic numbers."

Last week, the Nevada Secretary of State released data showing Democratic registration grew to 512,00 voters in April with the Democrats adding 10,000 new voters that month.
Republicans have 447,000 registered voters in Nevada, gaining 5,000 in April.

Herzik's remarks came during the Wednesday telecast of the Nevada Newsmakers TV show in Reno.

Herzik, a registered Republican, noted that the Latino voting population is considered a "sleeping giant" in Nevada politics, meaning the Latino voting base has yet to awaken to its potential.
"If that group shows up -- and that is always a big if -- does the sleeping giant awaken? But they seem to be very active," Herzik said.

A rising number of Latino voters in Nevada, probably opposed to Trump's ideas on immigration, is not the only problem Republicans face in Nevada. Herzik said that some parts of the GOP -- including the social conservatives and "the Bush wing," may choose not to vote for Trump or stay home from the election.

"People, particularity the conservative wing of the party and the Bush wing of the party, maybe will be sitting on their hands (this election)," Herzik added. "Yeah, there is a lot of excitement about Donald Trump. He has surprised all of us. He is masterful in terms of promoting his candidacy. But you are also going to come down to these numbers.

"Donald Trump is talking about all the new people (he has) brought in," Herzik said of the GOP. "But the Democrats are doubling new registrants when compared with Republicans in Nevada. And now they have a lead of 60,000 statewide.
"That is less than it has been in the past but it is a pretty significant number," Herzik said. "It is a number that is growing and if I am the Republicans, I'm looking at that number growing."

The Trump/Latino dynamic could hurt GOP candidates down the ticket in Nevada, Herzik said.
That could prove costly to Rep. Joe Heck, R-Henderson, the GOP's candidate to take the seat of retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

"Heck has got the problem that all down-ballot Republicans have," Herzik said. "He got to deal with the Trump issue and particularly in Nevada, he's got to deal with Trump issues with Latinos. And he is facing a Latina, a woman. I think that is a real problem for Joe Heck."
Heck is facing former Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto for Nevada's open U.S. Senate seat. She is attempting to become the first Latina ever elected into the U.S. Senate.

Yet ultimately, much of the GOP could unite around Trump, softening the impact of Democratic gains.
"One of the major theories in political science is the importance of the party label," Herzik and. "And ultimately, I think this will hold.

"Many of these disgruntled partisans will come around and say, 'I'm backing the party's nominee,' never mentioning Trump," Herzik said. "Even though you have many people saying, 'I vote the man and not the party,' many of them do vote for the party.
"The bigger problem for the Republicans is if they stay home and I think that is what many will do -- like the real conservatives and the Bush wing of the Republican Party."

Herzik also gave little chance for Democrat Chip Evans to unseat Nevada's 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City.
A Republican has been Nevada's Congressional District 2 representative ever since the district was created following the 1980 census.

"It is a Republican district and until the Democrats win at least once, it will always be a Republican district," Herzik said. "Mark Amodei is popular with all parts of the (Republican) party."