Following Trump’s threat, Nevada Republican now faces primary challenge from pro-Trump candidate

Dean Heller's opponent launched his bid on Trump's favorite TV show.

Heller and Trump on July 19. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Heller and Trump on July 19. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Less than a month ago, President Trump threatened to end Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) career unless he voted for a health care bill that would’ve stripped coverage from hundreds of thousands of his constituents. Heller did end up voting to repeal Obamacare — but he’s being primaried by a pro-Trump Republican anyway.

During a Tuesday morning interview on Trump’s favorite TV show, Danny Tarkanian (R) announced that he’s “going to run for the United States senate here in Nevada against Dean Heller.”

Asked why by a Fox & Friends host, Tarkanian went in on how Heller, who has voted in line with Trump’s position 90 percent of the time, has obstructed the president’s agenda.

“I have so many people that have contacted me over the past couple months saying, ‘You’ve got to run against Dean Heller,'” Tarkanian said. “They understand, as I do, that we’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office that fully support President Trump and his America-first agenda. Dean Heller wasn’t just one of the first ‘never Trumpers’ in Nevada, he was one of the most influential. He actually helped Hillary Clinton win the state of Nevada.”

Tarkanian went on to single out a press conference Heller held in late June at which he announced measured opposition to Trumpcare, saying there “isn’t anything in this bill that would lower premiums” and he “couldn’t support legislation that ‘takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans.'”

“That grandstand press conference [Heller] had derailed any momentum to get the health care bill repealed,” Tarkanian said. “We need people who are going to support the America-first agenda, and I would be that person.”

In late June, a pro-Trump outside group ran ads attacking Heller for his opposition to Trumpcare, but America First Policies PAC quickly pulled the spot after Heller signaled his position was negotiable. Last month, a GOP super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ran an ad going after Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) for making anti-Trump comments and thereby not “siding with” pro-Trump “Alabama conservatives.”

In a statement released after Tarkanian’s announcement, a Heller spokesman didn’t mention Trump at all, but attacked Tarkanian as “a perennial candidate who has spent millions of dollars on five campaigns over the last decade.”

Tarkanian’s announcement comes as another Senate Republican who is in trouble next year, Sen. Jeff Flake (AZ), criticizes Trump on philosophical and policy grounds. Last week, Politico published Flake’s anti-Trump essay, “My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump,” and during a CNN appearance on Monday night, Flake criticized Trump’s plan to curb legal immigration. But Flake has voted in lockstep with Trump’s position even more often than Heller — his ‘Trumpscore’ is 94 percent.

Watching from his private club in New Jersey, Trump retweeted Fox & Friends three times on Tuesday morning.