A path cleared for Nevada’s incumbent GOP Senator Dean Heller when his main primary challenger, Danny Tarkanian, dropped out of the race to run for the House.
Heller, who is not popular with Nevada GOP voters, got a boost from Donald Trump, who tweeted out a plea to Tarkanian to drop out of the Senate primary race and enter the 3rd District House race.
It would be great for the Republican Party of Nevada, and it’s unity if good guy Danny Tarkanian would run for Congress and Dean Heller, who is doing a really good job, could run for Senate unopposed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2018
Tarkanian wasn’t doing that badly in the polls against Heller, but he ran for the same seat in 2016, coming to within 4000 votes of Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is now challenging Heller. The move will unite Republicans in Nevada and give them a shot to hold onto a key Senate seat while flipping a House district.
Tarkanian said in his statement:
Late Wednesday, the president and members of his political team reached out to me and asked me to consider supporting the America First agenda as a Congressional candidate by running again in [Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District], where I nearly won in 2016 in what was one of the most expensive and closest congressional races in America. This was not something I ever considered. In my travels throughout the state, I’ve had so many wonderful people thank me for running for the U.S. Senate.
I am confident I would have won the U.S. Senate race and done a great job representing the people of Nevada in the Senate, but the president is adamant that a unified Republican ticket in Nevada is the best direction for the America First movement. With President Trump’s full support and endorsement, I am filing to run again in [the 3rd District] with the firm belief that we will finish what we started in 2016 and win in 2018.
Heller is the only GOP incumbent running in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. His relationship with the president has been turbulent, which has caused his popularity in Nevada to drop.
Then former Trump advisor Steve Bannon urged Tarkanian to challenge Heller in the primary. As with all other Bannon proteges, this one fizzled. A state senator in Mississippi, Chris McDaniel, challenging incumbent Senator Tom Wicker, is also dropping his challenge and running for the House.
Where does that leave Bannon?
By ending their primaries against the two senators, McDaniel and Tarkanian snuffed out what was left of Bannon’s vision for remaking Congress with candidates in his populist mold. At one time, Bannon envisioned primaries in Mississippi, Nebraska, Arizona, Wyoming and Nevada.
Now he has none.
With Bannon exiled by the president and Trump getting along with congressional leaders and taking counsel from largely mainstream Republicans in the post-Bannon White House, there is little political space for right-wing insurgents to oust incumbents.
So endeth the lesson.