Labor struggles rock Nevada, threatening the Democratic Party

The deep concern over the cost of living is clear, materializing in public opinion polls as well as among some anxious voters witnessing recent events for the Democratic senator. Catherine Cortez Masto and Governor Steve Sisolak. At one point Quetzi Sot, a 32-year-old from Nevada, thanked Sisolak for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said afterwards that she was still undecided about backing Democrats up and down the ticket. this autumn.

Sot, who works as a fine-dining server on the Strip, said in an interview that « the economy » is holding her back. « It’s a very, very big concern because the cost of living has gone up dramatically. »

The immediate consequences could be losses for Cortez Masto and Sisolak, as evidenced by public polls that show them stuck in deadlocked races. But the Democrats’ challenges in Nevada illustrate a larger problem for the party: It relies more than ever on white, college-educated suburbanites, though other groups outnumber them by significant margins in most areas. Battlefield states.

And while working-class voters of color have been a reliable Democratic bloc in recent years, they are also among the hardest hit by rising rents, gas prices and grocery bills. Now, Democratic strategists fear they won’t vote, or Republicans may edge them out, because of it.

« If the Democrats can’t win in Nevada, we can complain about the white working class all you want, but we’re really dealing with a much larger working class problem, » said a national Democratic pollster, who has granted anonymity to discuss the matter frankly. « We have a hard time with them, whatever their race. »

Sean McElwee, a Democratic pollster, called Nevada « ground zero » for this issue, « where non-college voters or working-class voters » are « moving away from us. »

“We continued to see a trend of educational polarization affecting people of all racial groups,” McElwee continued. « When people talk about this trend, they’re usually talking about white voters, but we see the same with voters of color. »

Both Cortez Masto and Sisolak campaign tirelessly on what they have and will do to cut costs: Sisolak told hundreds of Nevadans at an outdoor flea market that he was fighting to lower rents and raise teachers’ salaries on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, while Cortez Masto touted the Cut Inflation Act to dozens of housekeepers and casino workers in Mandalay Bay for « a lower[ing] costs for families.

« There’s more work to be done, no doubt, » Cortez Masto acknowledged to the crowd of unionized and blue-collar voters of color.

“They are very motivated, very supportive of the things we have implemented. They know we’ve done a lot,” Sisolak said in a brief interview, after greeting Nevada residents at Broadacres Market in Las Vegas, where he asked people working at various stalls how business was going.

“Unfortunately, as governor, there is nothing I can do about gas prices or grocery prices. I fully understand that, but we try to help in other areas,” Sisolak continued, citing his work to provide free breakfast and lunch to public school students, reduce childcare costs and of accommodation. Sisolak is running against Republican Joe Lombardo, the Clark County Sheriff.

While state Democrats have widely said they fear their support from voters of color will slip, « I’m not concerned that we’re losing them to the opposition, » said Andres Ramirez, a Democratic strategist based in Nevada, which works on federal and state races. « I’m afraid we’ll lose them because of ‘none of the above’ and staying home, » citing the unusual option on Nevada ballots to choose no candidate in a race.

Melissa Morales, executive director of Somos PAC, said « participation is what I keep an eye on ».

« If we see strong Latino turnout, from what we’re hearing at the gates, the Latino vote may bring it home to ‘Cortez Masto,' » she continued. “But in a mid-term year, where they are exhausted from the politics of the past six years, a little [more] unplugged than previous years… if we see a change in support it’s not because of a vote change, it will be because of a lack of participation.

Somos PAC has already invested $9.5 million in the state, including another $2 million before Election Day. They knocked on more than half a million doors in Las Vegas, while the Culinary Union, the organizing engine behind the state Democrats, came out with its biggest operation on the ground yet. , reaching over a million doors in early November.

“We are winning because the candidates from Nevada, Governor Sisolak, Senator Cortez Masto, are traditional, solution-oriented, kitchen-table problem-focused candidates,” said Ted Pappageorge, Secretary-Treasurer of the Culinary union. « They are not extremists, neither extreme right nor extreme left. »

In 2020, President Joe Biden slightly improved Hillary Clinton’s performance among non-college white voters, though he still trailed them by 36 points, according to exit polls. But there was a 6-point drop for Biden among non-college voters of color, from 81% who supported Clinton to 75% who backed Biden, according to analysis by Third Way, a center-left group. For a party so reliant on voters of color, any slippage is notable and in races as close as those in Nevada, a majority-minority state with a high concentration of non-college voters, it could be devastating.

That move resonates across the country, as Republicans made gains in South Florida and South Texas, where some voters of color are drifting away from the party. And in Nevada, a notoriously difficult state to poll because of its transient population, a few polls showed Cortez Masto and Sisolak had declining margins among Hispanic voters, a constituency that skews the less wealthy.

« Cost of living issues are a challenge for us, and I don’t think we’ve challenged that enough, » said Mike Lux, a Democratic consultant who wrote an op-ed with other strategists last week. , imploring the party to refocus on economic issues. “Because it’s not just a problem with working-class white voters. That’s a problem with working-class voters that we usually slide with.

Nevada Republicans are trying to capitalize on that openness by tackling inflation, a major issue for voters in the state, who often cite the GOP as the party they trust most to handle it. Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is challenging Cortez Masto, believes Republicans have yet to reach their « high point » with working-class voters despite rapid gains among white voters in recent years.

« What we’ve seen in recent years are these Democratic policies, whether it’s attacking energy independence or spending too much money to cause inflation, are absolutely killing the working class, » he said. said Laxalt, after a roundtable with women entrepreneurs in Reno. , alongside Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). “We are seeing conversions at record highs in this race [with] Hispanic working class [voters]especially. »

Laxalt’s television ads tackle both inflation and crime, a pair of issues Republicans are rolling out across the country as races tighten in the home stretch.

Cortez Masto, meanwhile, focuses more explicitly on her own identity — she made history as the first Latina senator — and her own family’s blue-collar history to connect with voters. After his “back of the house” encounter at the Mandalay Bay, Cortez Masto noted that his father had started cleaning cars.

« When I walk in these rooms, not only [are they] where I grew up is a community that I lived with, my aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone,” she said.

“For people here, it’s not about partisan politics. They want to know that you are on their side. They want to know that someone understands what they’re dealing with,” Cortez Masto continued in an interview. « I can’t imagine Adam Laxalt doing that, and I’ve never seen him do anything with our industry. »

But she is fighting a negative image of the national Democratic Party, which has been labeled by Republicans as extreme and too focused on cultural issues.

« They let too much wiggle room control the narrative, and it’s probably the same with the Republican Party as well, » said Brandon Morris, a local Carpenters and Joiners of America member who attended a Cortez Masto event at the East Las Vegas Community Center.

And for voters frustrated with $6 gas in the state, “they also want someone to blame,” he added.

« What makes Nevada different is the extent to which the economy really dominates in a way that it doesn’t elsewhere, » said another Democratic pollster, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “But if Republicans were to make gains in Nevada and Arizona, two places where there are very competitive and contested races, then for Democrats it is a warning sign that there could be a new normal. for support. [with working class voters of color].”


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