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May 5, 2015

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Economic woes, anti-Obama sentiment fail to draw large turnout


Leila Navidi

Votes are counted for Precinct 7405 during the Republican presidential caucus at Green Valley High School in Henderson on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. Ron Paul won the precinct with 16 votes. Mitt Romney came in second with 10 votes.

Gingrich reacts to Romney's victory

KSNV coverage of Newt Gingrich's speech on caucus night, Feb. 4, 2012.

Gingrich Comes in Second

Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a news conference after the Nevada caucus at the Venetian Saturday, February 4, 2012 Launch slideshow »

GOP Caucus in Clark County

John Metzguer, center, and Leroy King, right, both of Henderson, sign in for the Republican presidential caucus at Green Valley High School in Henderson on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Searchlight Republican Caucus

Roy L. Phillips, left, of Cal-Nev-Ari, signs-in for a Republican caucus at a community center in Searchlight Saturday, February 4, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Mitt Romney’s easy victory in Nevada’s Republican presidential caucuses might, in the long run, be less important than the fact that a surprising number of Republicans who could have participated Saturday chose to stay home.

Republicans’ disappointing turnout foreshadows difficulty energizing GOP voters in Nevada, a key swing state in November’s general election.

Turnout was unlikely to match 2008, when 44,000 Republicans participated in Nevada’s caucuses. Complete figures were not released by the state party as of 10 p.m. Saturday, an indication of a lackluster showing.

“It was less than what we had planned for,” Clark County caucus Director Michael Chamberlain said on KNPR.

Republican turnout in Washoe County, Nevada’s second largest, was 8 percent, well below the 20 percent some had predicted.

“We expected more. Obviously we hoped for more,” David Buell, chairman of the Washoe County Republican Party, said.

To illustrate how important voter enthusiasm is, quickly answer this question: Who won the 2008 Nevada Democratic caucus, when 116,000, many of them newly registered voters, caucused?

No, it wasn’t President Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton won.

Still, 10 months later, Obama, fueled by the party members’ energy and organization, carried Nevada by 12 percentage points over Republican John McCain.

The lesson: Caucus turnout signaled the excitement of the Democratic base and helped perpetuate it through the general election, as the party tapped that energy to organize itself.

Obama’s easy victory in 2008 was credited to the so-called “enthusiasm gap” — Democratic voters were excited for a change after eight years under Republican President George W. Bush. Republicans, meanwhile, were lukewarm on their nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

To be sure, the race is not decided. While Republican caucus turnout may not have met expectations, having Obama on the ballot will motivate Republicans to vote, party members say.

“When Obama is driving the turnout for Republicans, Republicans will turn out,” said Robert Uithoven, a Republican political consultant who has not endorsed a presidential candidate.

Yet Republican Party leaders hoped three years under Obama and a broken economy would have created more excitement among members of the party. And that doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

The Republican party has just over 400,000 active voters in Nevada. In 2008, the GOP had just under 400,000 active voters.

Amy Tarkanian, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, initially predicted that 70,000 Republicans would caucus.

It was a prediction reminiscent of 2007, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid estimated 100,000 Democrats would caucus, a number that seemed ridiculously high and sent Democratic Party operatives scurrying to temper expectations.

Tarkanian later tempered her estimate to 44,000.

Buell blamed Saturday’s low turnout on the difficult caucus process and the sour experience voters had in 2008, when there were fewer caucus locations, long lines and a lack of volunteers.

He also blamed nice weather and the Super Bowl — people were skiing or stocking up on food for the big game.

Low turnout is usually blamed on bad weather.


One purpose of a caucus — in addition to choosing the party’s nominee — is to recruit and excite voters. But that did not happen Saturday.

In Churchill County, one of the rural counties where Republicans need high turnout to offset predominantly Democratic areas like Clark County, turnout barely broke 10 percent.

In three of the four states to caucus or vote in primaries before Nevada, Republican turnout was up slightly, according to The New York Times.

In Florida, where Romney won decisively, it was down drastically.

Both parties, not surprisingly, spin turnout.

Democrats said Republicans should match Democratic turnout from 2008.

“If Republicans don’t reach 116,000, it will be extremely telling about the lack of enthusiasm for the Republican field,” said party spokesman Zachary Petkanas. “It will blow a hole in the idea of anti-Obama enthusiasm.”

Of course, the comparison to four years ago is not exact. In 2008, Democrats had a number of strong candidates running for office and organizing volunteers in the state.

In November, Republicans hope to hang the bad economy on Obama, the incumbent. And no message wins as consistently in politics as “throw the bum out.”

Buell, with the Washoe County Republicans, said the excitement may not have been apparent on Saturday but it’s there. Party fundraisers have been packed, he said.

“Republicans are excited to get a new president in,” he said. “Are they excited about going to a caucus? Apparently not.”

Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

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  1. I wonder how many red delegate ballots were disallowed, because they were used for the blue official ballots. Where I caucused, no one could find official blue ballots two hours after the doors were scheduled to close. Just as we were going to pass out the delegate ballots, someone showed up with the official ballots.

  2. Perhaps the Republicans in Nevada aren't happy with their current choice of candidates, or even worse, the current direction of the GOP. Note to GOP: cutting government spending = good Not letting anything else get done because the president might get credit = bad

  3. I'd go with "economic woes" as a factor. I can't see some family, who is having a hard time making ends meet because one or both parents lost their jobs thanks to the casino corporations, feeling much love for any of these political candidate. Add in the faces of those two super rich MF'ers, Trump and Romney, smiling for the cameras the other day probably didn't help much.

    And yeah, people perhaps are getting tired of the "hating" going on all the time. No solutions except "we must make Obama a one term president". That constant rhetoric doesn't make the future look any better no matter who is running for president. People want answers, plans on what these jokers would do for them and the country. And nothing is ever forthcoming.

  4. This is hard for me to write because I haven't voted for a Democrat for President in over 40 years. But Darth and Det echo my sentiments exactly. I certainly don't agree with everything Obama has done but he is getting my vote. Shame on the Republicans for failing to compromise and for not fielding a viable candidate. Romney and Gingrich? Both are crooks.

  5. "Buell blamed Saturday's low turnout on the difficult caucus process and the sour experience voters had in 2008, when there were fewer caucus locations, long lines and a lack of volunteers.

    He also blamed nice weather and the Super Bowl -- people were skiing or stocking up on food for the big game.

    Low turnout is usually blamed on bad weather." it's because the moon didn't align with Saturn rising with Mars in decline and Neptune off course. bodies were not in the proper alignment to excite the base Tea/Republican voters. wasn't full moon. that it was an evil plot hatched by the diabolical triumvirate of impending doom composed of Pelosi, Reid and Obama that prevented voters from casting their ballot. President Obama and his teleprompter of destructive deviltry for sending out mindwarping telepathic disruption beams to disorient our voters.

    It had to be that.

    No crap.

    It had to be anything but the fact the brand of white collar ultra-conservatism that has infected the Tea/Republican Party nowadays basically makes them unpalatable anymore. Especially when you vote for someone, but it's not a vote for them, it's a vote for Mr. Grover Norquist and some stupid pledge he had that candidate sign which restricts them not only from making a decision, but also bends them to his will.

    I love it when Tea/Republicans are making excuses all the time. Their message is sour. Their brand is dying. Perhaps someday they will recapture conservatism and not this warped mentality they possess now.

  6. I'll never vote for another Republican caucuses in Nevada again after that unbelievable mess I had to go thru. IMO it felt like an invited list of representatives from each district. If your not close with the local party, good luck. Figuring out your new polling place, 3 phone calls to hear generic recorded messages and 2 web sites later. Next you were to show up at a certain undisclosed time depending on your location. Next you needed to find a volunteer that wasn't too busy doing nothing and willing to help you find or should I say run to your correct classroom. Only to find they don't have the official and correct ballets and envelopes. Mean while people make comments how the democrats can't run anything.

    That experience alone make me want to vote democrat next time.

    Did anyone see the fireworks at the Adelson Educational Campus on CNN?

  7. The Nevada Republican Caucuses...

    About as well-run & meaningful as you would expect;
    if you were expecting a 3rd-world election that should've been monitored by 'outside organizations' due to the general consensus that the whole thing was a 'for show only' proposition.
    I feel some empathy for Paul's Ronulans, because they seem a spirited bunch that embrace a new direction.
    Unfortunately, with Ron Paul you get...Ron Paul in the package. Ideas with some merit, smothered in Crazy Sauce.

    "Romney 2012; I AM the 1%!"

  8. The GOP Caucus performed as planed. Mitt Romney(A.K.A.) "the family Dog terrorist" won a verdict of confusion. . .