Nevada sticks with caucuses in blow to Jeb
© Getty Images

The Nevada state legislature on Tuesday failed to pass a measure changing its presidential caucuses to a primary election, dealing a blow to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R-Fla.) hopes in the early-voting state, while boosting Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment Masks and vaccines: What price freedom? MORE (R-Ky.).

The move to a primary was backed by many in the Republican establishment, but state party leaders in the legislature ultimately passed on bringing the bill up for a vote, believing there wasn’t enough support.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (D-Nev.) intervened to keep the state’s caucuses, leaning on a Nevada Democrat who was open to the change.

ADVERTISEMENT
Nevada is still a critical carve-out state by virtue of being the fourth to vote in the GOP nominating process. However, top-tier Republican presidential contenders like Bush, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (Fla.) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will now have to decide how much of their resources to commit to the first-in-the-West caucus.

Those three could have been in good shape if the state had moved to a primary, which tend be higher turnout affairs that favor well-funded candidates who spend a lot of time and money on the ground.

In 2012, the eventual Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, ran away with the caucuses, taking 50 percent support, followed by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) at 21 percent and then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) at 19 percent.

But the Nevada caucuses historically have low turnout and have proven to be erratic affairs. That could favor Paul, who can build on his father’s fervent base of grassroots support to assert outsized influence over the event.

In 2012, fewer than 8 percent of eligible voters participated in the Nevada caucuses, with participation falling from 44,000 in 2008 to 33,000 most recently. 

And despite Romney’s overwhelming margin of victory on Election Day, Ron Paul ended up winning a majority of the state’s delegates by virtue of his small, but committed base of supporters remaining active at the state conventions throughout the process.

The Nevada caucuses have attracted controversy in the past.

In 2012, the state planned to move its caucuses from early February to mid-January, setting off a mad scramble among other states to move their primaries or caucuses up in order to maintain their importance in the field.

Nevada party leaders ultimately settled on the later date after coming under heavy pressure from national Republican leaders.