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Las Vegas-Area Democrat Fights For House Seat

Oct 18, 2010 (All Things Considered)

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An interesting aspect of a midterm "wave" election like the one most experts are predicting in two weeks, is that we news media types pay attention to lawmakers we rarely would take much note of otherwise.

Call them the endangered. Focusing on them helps us tell the larger story being forecast. It's like a news video footage of people boarding up their houses before the hurricane hits.

Given that, one of the most truly at risk lawmakers this election cycle appears to be in in Nevada's 3rd congressional district where much of Las Vegas' suburbs are, a sprawling district that also includes Searchlight, hometown of Sen. Harry Reid. Again, it's the kind of district that doesn't really rise to national attention except for moments like now.

Rep. Dina Titus represents the district and what makes her situation fascinating is the first term congresswoman represents a district that President Barack Obama won handily, by 12 percentage points over Sen. John McCain in 2008, 55%-43%.

She, however, only defeated the incumbent Republican Jon Porter in 2008 by five percentage points, 47% to 42%. So she started from a relatively weak position.

Also worth noting is that even though she seems to be on the razor's edge, she's unabashedly citing the health care overhaul law as an achievement.

Furthermore, she's a political scientist by training. So whatever happens Nov. 2, she's well situated to explain it to the rest of us.

As NPR's Ina Jaffe reported on the congresswoman's plight on All Things Considered, Titus got some help recently from a member of the House Democratic leadership. Not Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Too radioactive.

Instead, it was House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who visited Titus troops to help demonstrate to local Democrats how important winning hers and other marginal seats is to Democrats holding on to their majority. He accompanied Titus at a local manufacturing facility:

As Ina reported:

INA: Theoretically, this was not a campaign event. It was supposed to be about economic policy.  But when the House majority leader  flies  across the country  just to walk around a factory with you, that's all about politics. Just ask him.

HOYER: This race is critically important or the majority leader of the House of Representatives wouldn't be here talking to you.

INA: When Titus talks, her accent betrays her Georgia roots.  But she she says she has roots in this district too.  She was a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for 30 years and a member of the state senate for 20.

TITUS: I've been here a long time. They know me and they know the priorities I have in DC are like the ones I had in the legislature.

INA: But the Third Congressional District is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. And now Titus must sell her constituents  on  a record that's pretty consistently Democratic. She voted for the stimulus bill, which she said will bring jobs to Nevada.

And unlike many Democrats this year, she's touting her vote for the health care overhaul.

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