Combine this with the new poll showing Esign under 50 against Carter, and we could have a real race on our hands--Chris
Cross-posted at the new Carter Blog at Carter for Nevada
Nevada has been the fastest growing state in the country for 19 years in a row, and will continue to grow (.xls). This makes for a unique political situation that's much more volatile, and where incumbency isn't as valuable as it is elsewhere. Most importantly for us, it will help Jack Carter negate his perceived disadvantages in the Senate race.
Let me break it down for you - I'm going to geek out a little bit and do some number crunching.
Chart source here
The big issue is that of incumbency. John Ensign's advantage there is not as strong as he'd like. In 2000, when he was elected, the population was 2 million (pdf). By 2004, it was up to 2.41 million, and estimates predict that the population in 2006 should be about 2.5 million (pdf). That means that half a million people, 20% of the population, have never seen Ensign on a ballot. Looked at another way: in 2000, Ensign won with 55% of the vote. Therefore, only about 44% of current voters in Nevada voted for him previously.
(You'll notice that I am conflating general population statistics with voter statistics. I have no reason to believe that the percentage of people who vote has changed that much over this time period. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of votes cast in Nevada increased 36%, while the population grew only 20%, so clearly, there was a substantial increase in the percentage of people who voted. Then again, 2006 will be a mid-term election, so turnout is expected to be depressed compared with 2004. It seems like a wash. Regardless of exact numbers, the principle is sound.)
Usually, when running against an incumbent, there's a psychology you have to contend with - you're essentially trying to convince voters that they made a mistake the first time around. This is why the best attacks on incumbents have to do with broken promises and why challengers charge that the incumbent has somehow changed since he/she was elected. It gives people an excuse to vote against the incumbent without concluding that they were wrong to vote for him/her in the first place.
In Nevada, the population growth expands the options of what a challenger can do. We've got a whole lot of fresh voters that don't have anything invested in Ensign. It certainly brings a interesting aspect to this race, and one that most pundits seem to ignore.
The other issue that is mitigated by the rapid population growth is my Dad's being labelled a "carpetbagger" (he has only lived in Nevada for about 3-4 years). But, in 2000, only 24% of US citizens living in Nevada were born in the state, making it the most non-native state in the country. With the further increase in population (the half a million in the last six years), that percentage can only be getting smaller. As my Dad has said, if he only does well among carpetbaggers, he'll be in great shape.
Clearly, the rapidly growing population of Nevada will a factor in the Carter-Ensign Senate race. In a future post, I'll look at who these newcomers are and where they're going, and I'll try to figure out how they can best be reached.
Carter for Nevada