Heller lags behind GOP challenger in Nevada primary: poll

Heller lags behind GOP challenger in Nevada primary: poll
© Greg Nash

Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian leads Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (R-Nev.) in the first poll of the Republican primary contest in Nevada.

The survey from JMC Analytics finds Tarkanian at 44 percent and Heller at 38 percent. Seventeen percent say they are undecided.

Tarkanian, who has never won elected office despite five previous bids, is viewed favorably by 59 percent of Nevadans and unfavorably by 24 percent. Heller, the first-term incumbent, is at 51 percent favorable and 43 unfavorable.

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Republicans are bracing for a nasty primary season that is breaking along establishment and grass-roots lines. The 2018 contests will pit Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' MORE (R-Ky.) and the incumbents he is trying to protect.

Bannon is recruiting primary challengers for every Republican senator seeking reelection in 2018 except for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMichael Bennet declared cancer-free, paving way for possible 2020 run Booker, Harris have missed most Senate votes O'Rourke sweeps through Virginia looking to energize campaign MORE (R-Texas.). It is widely expected that Breitbart and an outside group run by Bannon’s allies will support Tarkanian in the race over Heller.

McConnell and his network of outside groups, including the Senate Leadership Fund, are backing Heller. 

The race has already turned nasty. Tarkanian is demanding Heller vow to oppose McConnell as majority leader, while the Senate Leadership Fund is accusing Bannon of anti-Semitism and mocking Breitbart's internet traffic.

President Trump figures to weigh heavily over the race. Eighty-five percent of those polled have a favorable view of the president. Eighty-six percent said they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the president’s agenda.

The poll of 500 registered voters in Nevada was conducted between Oct. 24 and Oct. 26 and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.