The duel between Catherine Cortez Masto, the Democratic incumbent, and Adam Laxalt, her Republican challenger, serves as a referendum on voters’ concerns nationwide over inflation and the economy.
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Sun rises in Flamingo Road neighborhood in Las Vegas after the 2022 midterm election.
The duel in Nevada between Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, one of the Democratic Party’s more vulnerable incumbents, and Adam Laxalt, a Republican who helped to spearhead former President Donald J. Trump’s effort to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, is the most expensive political contest in state history — with good reason.
The outcome of the race, where candidates have built their campaigns on broader narratives over the state of the economy and the threat to abortion access, may tip control of the Senate.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Laxalt led Ms. Cortez Masto, the nation’s first Latina senator, by 2.7 percentage points with 75 percent of the vote counted. But most of the remaining votes were expected to come from Democratic-leaning mail ballots and provisional ballots, including from same-day registrants.
The race in Nevada has embodied Republicans’ robust hopes of regaining a Senate majority and Democrats’ fight to preserve the vestiges of a party juggernaut forged there by the late Harry M. Reid, who spent 30 years in the Senate before retiring in 2017.
That political machine long relied on favorable demographics to maintain its momentum, but the economic downturn has posed a steep challenge. Mr. Laxalt seized on the issue, blaming Democrats and President Biden for the grim financial outlook. Just last weekend, Mr. Laxalt condemned Mr. Biden for the state’s 15 percent inflation rate, while noting that Mr. Biden had not visited Nevada to campaign.
With Democrats’ troubles in Nevada reflecting those around the nation, Ms. Cortez Masto, herself a protégée of Mr. Reid, focused her campaign on abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
Nevada allows abortion up to 24 weeks, and after that in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. Mr. Laxalt has said he would support banning abortions in the state after 13 weeks, or the first trimester, and was caught saying during a breakfast with pastors that “Roe v. Wade was always a joke.”
For years, even with Democrats representing a minority among registered voters, Nevada maintained its blue-state status. Their chances of retaining that distinction hinges, in part, on the turnout of working-class and Latino voters — voters who Democrats have long relied on, and who Republicans have feverishly courted.