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In Nevada, national Republicans exude optimism over Senate takeover: 'People are fed up'

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and Senate GOP campaign chair Rick Scott credited early investments for their rising prospects in an interview.
Republican National Committee chairman Ronna McDaniel speaks alongside Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in Doral, Fla., on Oct. 18, 2022.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks alongside Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., in Doral, Fla., on Tuesday.Rebecca Blackwell / AP

RENO, Nev. — With just over two weeks until the midterm elections, Republicans are feeling bullish about winning the Senate — and the chairs of two major GOP groups are already crediting early investments in races for their rising prospects.

In an interview after they campaigned for Adam Laxalt on Saturday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rick Scott, R-Fla., said pouring money into battlegrounds earlier in the campaign helped define Democrats, like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who for weeks has failed to pull ahead of Laxalt in polling in her race for re-election.

The Nevada Senate race remains within the margin of error. McDaniel said Scott’s aggressive early spending when the national conversation centered on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was critical to having blunted attacks from Democrats.

“Because of that spend, which was strategically and tactically done, it put us in a position where we came in the fall and didn’t have such big deficits. [Then] once our candidates had the money to get on TV, they closed the gap," McDaniel said. Scott “will have all the credit for that decision when we win back the Senate.” 

Asked whether Scott deserved more credit than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose PAC has spent profusely since Labor Day to resuscitate campaigns like those of Republican J.D. Vance in Ohio, McDaniel and Scott both quickly called it a “team sport” without naming McConnell, despite his group’s sizable investments.  

The positive public face in the final weeks of the midterms is a sign that the leaders are trying to — at least temporarily — put behind them a public clash between Scott and McConnell that played out all summer. Some Republicans have expressed frustration over Scott, saying he spent too much too soon while his group’s fundraising this year fell behind the pace it kept up in previous campaign years. 

But now — as Democrats fumble for a cohesive response to voters' intensifying concern over the economy and inflation as races tighten in critical battlegrounds — Republicans are feeling strident about their prospects in battleground states like Nevada and Georgia, which McDaniel identified Saturday as the party's two best pickup opportunities.

The renewed energy among Republicans played out Saturday as the crowd gleefully clapped and pumped their fists at a get-out-the-vote rally in Reno, where about 50 people stuffed into a suite in an industrial park against the backdrop of a giant hanging American flag. (Organizers insisted 150 signed in for the event.)

Laxalt predicted a Republican victory, contending that in reality the race is not as close as it seems because supporters are refusing to take part in polls. 

“I’m here to tell you that people are fed up,” Laxalt told the crowd. “Ignore the polls and ignore the media. This is a most upset electorate we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime.”

The RealClearPolitics polling average showed Laxalt up by a razor thin 1.2 percentage points, later updated to just 0.8 points — within the margin of error.

Cortez Masto told NBC News that the voters she talks to are worried about the economy and Republicans' repealing reproductive rights, as well as issues tied to climate, like combating wildfires and drought.

She pointed to the bipartisan infrastructure package Congress passed, saying it provides crucial assistance to Nevada for jobs and manufacturing, as well as funding to combat droughts and wildfires. “You gotta remember that Nevadans feel strongly about those issues,” she said in an interview last week.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate, scoffed when she was asked about Laxalt's contention that he is eating into her Latino support. “Well, he also went around this state peddling the 'big lie' and conspiracies — he’s a liar when it comes to that, we know that,” she said, pointing to Laxalt’s previous comments that the 2020 election was “rigged.”

On abortion, she added: “He has taken positions that are in opposition to what Nevadans want.”