Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- Nevada moves caucus to Feb. 4 (Oct. 22, 2011)
- GOP candidates respond to Jon Huntsman’s call for Nevada caucus boycott (Oct. 13, 2011)
- New Hampshire official blames Nevada for presidential primary problems (Oct. 12, 2011)
- Editorial: Why New Hampshire has such a problem with Nevada is beyond us (Oct. 16, 2011)
While Nevada lost much of its status as an early caucus state when it moved its presidential nominating contest to Feb. 4, there was this small consolation: At least we’re still first in the West, right?
For now. But there’s a looming threat to that primacy from Colorado.
“Although Colorado doesn’t seem like the West, it is the West,” Nevada Republican National Committeewoman Heidi Smith told the Sun last month at a meeting of the Nevada GOP. “The problem was Colorado too ... they did damage to us.”
Last month, Nevada traded its berth in the roster of early primary and caucus states to settle a national GOP crisis, as the first four — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — scrambled to fit their contests into a collapsing calendar.
The crisis was caused by Florida’s unsanctioned scheduling its primary for Jan. 31. Nevada rescheduled to early January to keep its place in line but encroached on New Hampshire’s date. So after weeks of pressure from everyone from the New Hampshire secretary of state to the Republican presidential candidates, the state GOP voted to retreat to Feb. 4, with assurances that next time the party picks a presidential nominee the state will get special treatment.
Nevada had to choose that date because Colorado was advancing, moving its caucuses from March 6 to Feb. 7.
For Nevada, that’s problematic. Though the dates for the 2012 primaries and caucuses seem to be set, it’s clear that Colorado is eyeing Nevada’s “first in the West” mantle. And there’s no guarantee the Silver State will keep it in future cycles — even for playing nice this time.
“We did not get a specific quid pro quo. What we got was a whole lot of goodwill that is going to go a long way,” Nevada Republican National Committeeman Bob List said of the state’s agreeing to move to a later date. “What we earned was a great deal of respect and admiration for doing the right thing.”
The West has emerged in the past two election cycles as the swing section of the country in presidential elections. For primary season, the West presents candidates with an opportunity to reach out to the newest swing vote in the electorate: Latinos.
The swing-state West includes Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado: states that became defined as such in the 2008 election after Democratic President Barack Obama won all three; his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, had carried them in 2004.
They’re all comparable in size: In 2012, Nevada was slated 28 delegates, Colorado was slated for 36 and New Mexico an estimated 23. (Nevada will now have 31 — the three extra coming because the Silver State made the switch back to February — and Colorado will only have 18 because it jumped the Republican National Committee’s order.)
But Colorado’s population is bigger and its political hue more purple, and if 2012 cements those statistics, Nevada could find itself with a challenge as to which state is the best bellwether.
The decision won’t be made until March 2013, but Nevada Republican leaders are already anticipating a challenge and trying to nip it the bud.
“We’ve conducted ourselves with dignity and maturity here, and I don’t believe that will go unnoticed,” List said. “They’re (Colorado) being the rule-breakers here.”
While RNC Chairman Reince Priebus praised Nevada, he hasn’t made a guarantee about the future, except to say that “Nevada is a carve-out state, and I think they’re going to remain a carve-out state.”
Yet it’s hard to ignore the fact that most of the Republican candidates — and even Obama — have spent more time campaigning in Denver than in Las Vegas so far. The GOP could acknowledge what campaigns recognized by giving Colorado the first Western contest.
For now, Nevada is appealing to the RNC for what it can control — such as who hosts the party’s convention.
“I asked if we could put a bid in for the next convention,” GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian said. “That way, we would be considered.”
And they’re hoping that karma — the good kind — will come back around.
“We will always be now, first in the West ... in future cycles too, because we were the more magnanimous state,” Smith said. “We are the good guys.”