The Day the Nevada GOP Died

News item: The Nevada Republican party has completed the vote count from its presidential caucus and announced the winner: William Howard Taft. The president’s 1912 re-election campaign is expected to benefit from the victory. 

One of the running gags of the Republican presidential campaign season has been to say that the winner of each GOP debate has been Barack Obama. Some see that as funny, others as silly. But when it comes to the Nevada Republican party’s 2012 presidential caucus, truer words were never spoken. Consider the losers:

Nevada Republicans, in general. The turnout was less than 34,000, down more than 10,000 from 2008, when the result seemed equally foreordained: Mitt Romney was the probable winner and Ron Paul a runner-up. With the same Mormon and same Libertarian running this time, and the race on to battle and, Republicans hope, defeat the non-Muslim non-socialist who is not from Kenya, when the GOP should be excited and on its game, turnout went DOWN? That doesn’t bode well for November, especially when you consider that in a hard-fought 2008 caucus, Democrats turned out 116,000—more than three times as many.

The Nevada Republican leadership in particular, and this loss was a tripleheader at minimum. Amy Tarkanian announced her resignation as state party chair so there would be no conflict of interest with her husband Danny running for a major office in his fourth straight election after losing the first three, but she stayed to oversee the caucus. County chair Dave Gibbs couldn’t be reached to comment to national media on the vote count, which was the kind of disaster usually reserved only for bad movies. They don’t exactly emerge from this with much credibility.

Worse, the party itself looks incapable of organizing a one-horse race. The leaders tried to move the primary back a couple of weeks, only to have New Hampshire leaders face them down. So, they wound up scheduling a caucus on the day before the Super Bowl, when only the most addicted political junkies would pay the slightest bit of attention to Nevada, and then only if something really big or strange happened here.

Well, something big or strange happened. The combination of the Special Sheldon Saturday Night
Caucus (named for Adelson, who says he had nothing to do with it, but the decision to hold an additional meeting for those who honor the Sabbath on Saturday sure looked like an effort to make sure he wasn’t unhappy, whatever his involvement) and the Republicans’ inability to count speedily from one to 33,000 meant the results didn’t get out before newspapers went to press back east on Sunday and Mitt Romney’s victory speech wound up buried late on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. Indeed, the results came out Sunday afternoon, when Americans’ sole concern was the Super Bowl proposition bet on whether Kelly Clarkson would finish the national anthem over or under 1:35 (under by two seconds).

Lest we forget, Gov. Brian Sandoval and, to a degree, Sen. Dean Heller lost, too. Sandoval already screwed up with his endorsement of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. But Sandoval wants to rebuild the Nevada GOP and has tried to help his friend Heller hold onto his Senate seat, which once belonged to John Ensign, whom they have never heard of. If they want to get out the vote this November, judging by the caucus, they will have to do it by themselves, because their party is a mess.

Romney got 50 percent of the vote over three other candidates and the “experts,” especially associated with him, pronounced a major victory. First, he got 55 percent in 2008, when he was not the clear front-runner at the time of the caucus. Second, as everybody knows, the credit for his victory actually went to his next-to-last minute endorser, Donald Trump, because The Donald said so. And Romney followed up that victory by announcing that the Susan G. Komen Foundation had made the right decision in refusing to provide grants to Planned Parenthood, and did so only three days after Komen reversed itself after a massive public outcry.

Newt Gingrich ran second with 21 percent, which is something of a victory since he wasn’t a major presence in Nevada … except he came here with $10 million in his pocket, so to speak, from Adelson, and if Nevada Republicans cared about someone that rich, powerful and prominent, wouldn’t they have done even better by his political best friend? Apparently not, because, the day after the results became known, The New York Times reported that Adelson has been making overtures to Romney, to let him know that he will support him if he is the nominee.

Ron Paul ran third with almost the same number of votes as he received in 2008. If that’s a crusade, it really must be true that no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, because Paul went nowhere and outspent Romney. And he did notch something of a victory by using a robo-call to get his supporters out to the Saturday night caucus and embarrassing the Nevada Republican party further by opening it to charges of stupidity by not letting some of its members vote.

Rick Santorum rang up 10 percent, which wouldn’t matter at all, except that Sharron Angle endorsed him. She said she might run for something this year.  She ought to be asking herself why, if her endorsement matters to so few people.

Indeed, it appears the Republican caucus mattered to few. The winner was indeed the Democratic Party.