By Aaron Blake - 08/11/09 02:53 PM EDT
Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) has decided not to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in 2010, according to a source with knowledge of Heller’s decision.
Source confirmed that Heller had informed National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) that he would not seek the seat.
He never showed much interest in the race, but after former Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) and some other big-name Republicans opted not to run, Heller became the most reputable potential opponent. Cornyn said as late as last week that Heller was “seriously considering” the race.
As a former three-term Nevada secretary of state, Heller had statewide profile that could have been valuable against Reid — especially when it came to Reid’s money. Reid has said he would raise about $25 million for the race.
“Congressman Heller would have been an excellent candidate, but considering Harry Reid is either the first or second most vulnerable Democrat incumbent in the Senate, he’s certainly not the only candidate," said a spokeswoman for the NRSC, Amber Wilkerson.
Now Republicans are left with a field full of little-known candidates vying for the right to face a well-funded and powerful incumbent Democrat with an image problem. Despite his money and power and the state’s recent Democratic trending, Reid has seen his favorability languish well below 50 percent.
A new GOP poll Tuesday showed Reid at 39 percent favorability. The same poll showed state Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden leading Reid 48-42 in a head-to-head match-up.
The poll, which was paid for by Lowden supporters looking to nudge her into the race, could be the beginning of an effort to put up a candidate whom GOP leaders can really around.
For now, those being mentioned as potential Reid opponents include Lowden, former state Sen. Mark Amodei, physician Rudy Manthei, state Regent James Dean Leavitt, former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, real estate developer Danny Tarkanian and attorneys John Chachas and Chuck Kozak.
This story was updated at 3:50 p.m.