Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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Jon Ralston:

The Nevada GOP embarrasses itself — again

The Democrats could not have planned the Republican presidential caucus any better if they actually had planned it (no, Ron Paul crazies, they really didn’t).

This weekend’s travesty defies metaphors, redefines irony, obliterates embarrassment. This is saying something for the party that brought us the grotesqueries of Jim Gibbons and John Ensign.

There was a humorous colloquy on Twitter on Tuesday, with Secretary of State Ross Miller, the Sun’s David Schwartz and The Atlantic’s Molly Ball citing “Alice in Wonderland’s” indelible “caucus-race” scene to amplify the ridicule. But even invoking Lewis Carroll, whose “Jabberwocky” makes about as much sense as the GOP event but has a much better cadence, does not do justice to the caucus gone wrong.

This is the most shocking display of ineptitude since the party managed to make a national spectacle of itself by nominating Sharron Angle, the only living Nevadan who could have lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010. But at least the GOP could have claimed it couldn’t control the U.S. Senate primary electorate two years ago. What’s the Republican excuse for a spectacularly low turnout — 11,000 fewer voters than the non-race of 2008 — and a vote tally that wasn’t final until a day and a half after the caucus, giving rise to anger, derision and conspiracies?

This was the worst possible scenario for a party trying to emerge from the shadow of the Reid loss: They didn’t turn out voters as they claimed they would, and the Clark County party, the most important one, cemented its image as a cuckoo’s nest.

This is the party whose candidates keep saying they won’t apologize for America (don’t get me started) but whose leaders won’t even say they are sorry for the worst-run election in state history. The same party always hectoring the Democrats about failure to take responsibility — every day they are fast and furious about Eric Holder — won’t make anyone walk the plank (hello, Clark County Chairman Dave Gibbs). Now the party that hates big government wants big government to start running these — i.e., switching from a caucus to a primary — to save them from future humiliation.

Indeed, Republican National Committeeman Bob List said Monday the caucus was a “remarkable achievement,” and all he and ex-Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian could talk about on “Face to Face” on Monday were the thousands of volunteers they recruited for the November election.

Remarkable achievement? Remarkably ridiculous, perhaps. And those volunteers? How many of them want to stay involved after that weekend nightmare?

Remember, the GOP took forever in an election that was super-low turnout. They took forever despite promises of a social media revolution — results delivered in real time by Twitter! Remember, they took forever despite having most of the votes already counted at the precincts by early afternoon.

When you have descended beyond parody, you have a problem.

The Republicans lamely tried to make this about the media, that we were simply upset about missing deadlines. But when List bragged to an audience at the Republican Men’s Club that the party had — yes, remarkably — gotten the results certified by the next day, that was too much.

Certified? What about released?

That led to the “We’re Not Iowa” explanation, a reference to that state releasing results on the night of its Jan. 3 caucus that Mitt Romney won by eight votes, only to learn a few weeks later Rick Santorum won by 34 votes.

Yes, Iowa screwed up. But the Iowa results did not really change — it was still a tie. And while Clark County unfathomably decided to re-count 17,000 ballots — no other county didn’t trust the managers it assigned to precincts — the results, except for who finished second, were known — Mitt Romney in a landslide.

Then the nonsense of a “trouble box” of scores of ballots, the Paul folks swarming the county headquarters and the Adelson school caucus only added to something Barnum and Bailey couldn’t have conjured up.

Let’s be clear: The final results did not post on the GOP’s fancy Google map until the early morning hours of Monday. Yes, Monday — for a caucus that, for all intents and purposes, was over early Saturday afternoon.

Yes, a remarkable achievement.

The Democrats, not surprisingly, reacted like a dog whose owner forgot the rabies vaccine. The froth dripped off news releases as the Democrats lampooned the GOP for all its pre-caucus braggadocio and even released quotes from Gov. Brian Sandoval and others talking up the primary as a “party-building” exercise. Or, as it turned out, party-deconstructing exercise.

The Republicans may still have the last laugh come November. Extrapolating from what happened in February to nine months hence is dangerous. But what’s clear is that if GOP candidates, from the presidential race on down, win this fall, it will be in spite of Nevada’s Goofy Old Party.

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