MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

The right is riled-up; do Republicans want to repeal and replace Dean Heller?

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller speaks to reporters Wednesday, July 19, 2017, in Washington. (NBC News)

“It's live and local for a Tuesday. We're talking with Michael McDonald,” conservative talk show host Kevin Wall told his statewide audience on 790 Talk Now.

McDonald is the Chairman of the Nevada Republican Party. After his round on the radio, I asked him: Is Nevada's Republican U.S. senator headed for a primary?

“Yes,” McDonald told me, without so much as flinching.

Heller is getting it from Democrats. He's getting it from Republicans. Two weeks ago, he even got it from the President.

“Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he,” Trump asked at a White House luncheon with Heller next to him, hoping to apply a little jovial pressure to the Republican considered the GOP’s most endangered Senate incumbent.

Since June 23, when he stood with Gov. Brian Sandoval, Heller has been trying to thread a health care needle: he opposed Senate measures to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, worried about their impact on the hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who could lose coverage from the proposals’ deep cuts to Medicaid. He voted to begin debate, then he voted against a full repeal, and then he voted for a slimmed-down version, in order to get a measure to the House and a compromise produced.

He’s won no friends in the process.

“People are real unhappy with Dean Heller,” Wall told me. “I think people are tired of politicians like this who are all over the map. They want people to have basic, solid, core beliefs.”

The conservative right has never forgiven Heller for never supporting Donald Trump for president. Heller’s health care odyssey has simply added to their misgivings, prompting talk that a primary is lurking in Heller’s future.

“I think it's going to happen maybe as early as this week that somebody's going to come out of the woodwork and run against Dean Heller,” says Wall.

That somebody could be Danny Tarkanian, who lost CD3 in a squeaker to Democrat Jacky Rosen, who is leaving her freshman perch in the House to challenge Heller for Senate.

No comment on Tuesday from Team Tark.

The Heller campaign sent me a statement:

“Dean Heller has always put Nevadans first and will continue to. He has led with conservative values his entire career,” says Heller Campaign Spokesperson Tommy Ferraro. “Liberal groups with an agenda are looking to drive a wedge in the GOP so they can steal a Senate seat from the people of Nevada."

A poll out Tuesday, done by the Democratic firm, Public Policy Polling, claims Heller has a cellar-dwelling 22-percent approval rating in the wake of the health care votes. The poll, done July 26-27, surveyed 847 Nevada voters. In a match-up against a hypothetical Democratic opponent, Heller loses 50-percent to 31-percent.

But he is the incumbent with more than three and a half million in the bank and a primary would be a year away. A lot can happen.

“I think if the Republicans actually do something about Obamacare it could be an entirely different race. But remember that Heller was a 'never Trumper' so he's angered a lot of people who were never going to forgive him,” says KXNT’s Heidi Harris.

For Heller, that's a grudge that could count.

Trending