Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, then-Sen. Dean Heller (R) of Nevada was in a unique position: he was literally the only Republican senator up for re-election in a state Donald Trump lost.
The GOP incumbent could've moderated his public image and run as a centrist, independent voice, or he could move to the right and position himself as a Donald Trump toady. In 2016, Heller eyed the former over the latter: the Nevadan opposed Trump's presidential candidacy and donated to charity a contribution he'd received from his party's presidential nominee.
But as regular readers know, as 2018 drew closer, Heller switched gears, aligned himself with the president, declared his home state "Trump country," and campaigned alongside Trump, telling the president at one rally, "I think everything you touch turns to gold."
Trump, in turn, told Nevadans that he had "no better partner" than Dean Heller.
Two weeks later, Heller lost by five points.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported yesterday that the president hasn't forgotten what transpired, and he blamed Heller's loss on the senator having been "extraordinarily hostile" toward him during the 2016 race.
"What happened with Dean Heller is, I tried for him," Trump said during a sit-down with regional reporters in the Oval Office. But he said hard-core voter base "did not believe me. They wouldn't go for him."
Trump accused Heller of leaving the impression that he had voted for Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.... "I just could never get my base excited on him," Trump said, before he added, "I like him a lot."
Told about Trump's comments, Heller responded, "This president called me that day before the election and said I was going to win by five points. Now all of sudden he has a different spin on that. Not surprising. I think America's used to that."
The importance of this has less to do with what transpired in Nevada, and more to do with what's likely to happen in 2020.