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Nevada special election: And the winner is ...

September 13, 2011 | 10:20 pm

Obama nevada 
Republican Mark Amodei swept past Democrat Kate Marshall on Tuesday to become Nevada’s newest member of Congress. No surprise there. Republicans far outnumber Democrats in the sprawling, heavily rural district, and recent polling had shown the former state GOP chairman with a near-insurmountable lead.

What analysts will probably debate in the coming days is whether Amodei’s victory (coupled with a stunning Democratic defeat in Tuesday's special congressional election in New York) is an ominous sign for President Obama.

Some things to consider in Nevada, a swing state that Obama won by 12 points in 2008:

Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District is not representative of the entire state, which is more diverse and Democrat-friendly. A Democrat has never won the seat since it was created, though Jill Derby came within five points of Republican Dean Heller in 2006. In fact, Marshall essentially ran as a Republican, castigating Obama’s handling of the economy, including the stimulus package and the continuance of bank bailouts. National Democrats mostly passed on aiding her campaign.

Therefore, Democrats may argue that Marshall was doomed from the get-go.

However, Marshall did revive a line of attack that helped Democrats score a win during a May special election in New York by essentially painting Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who proposed privatizing Medicare for people younger than 55, as a sort of bogeyman. Marshall’s ads showed Amodei praising Ryan’s plan, although he later shied away from supporting its Medicare component.

In turn, Amodei ran ads in which he vows to his mother, Joy, that he will defend the program. “You'd better, Mark. I'm counting on you,” she replies.

Therefore, Republicans may argue that they’ve found a way to undermine an effective Democratic line of attack.

One place to look for answers: Washoe County, which includes Reno and is closely split between the two major parties. Obama banked 55% of the vote here in 2008, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won the county with 49% of vote during his hotly contested 2010 race. Even so, the Reno area has been walloped by the recession. Its 13% unemployment rate -– with little hope for an imminent rebound -– makes it fertile ground for a potential Obama backlash. Amodei's team aggressively tried to link Marshall to the president and, given her role as state treasurer, to the economic meltdown.

How did Marshall do in Washoe? Well, with 88% of the county's precincts reporting, Amodei was up by 10 points.

OK, everyone. Let the spinning begin.


Nevada voters head to polls for special congressional election

Nevada candidate calls in Medicare favor from Mom

In Nevada, an early testing ground for 2012

-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas

Photo: Then-Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally on the campus of the University of Nevada in Reno, in 2008. Does Tuesday's special election in Nevada foretell whether he'll win the state in 2012? Credit: David Calvert/Bloomberg News