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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 HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play 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 McConnellTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Senate GOP opens door to earmarks McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' 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 CruzBoehner: 'There's a lot of leaders in the Republican Party' Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers 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.