Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2014

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Jon Ralston:

Here’s hoping GOP doesn’t botch Nevada’s big moment

I was wrong and I’m thrilled — and petrified.

For months, I have been lamenting — nay, whining — that the state GOP meekly capitulated to a bluffing New Hampshire secretary of state and a strong-arming Republican National Committee and cost Nevada any influence by moving from third in the nation to fifth on the nominating calendar. I still believe the state could have had much more of a say had Nevada been where South Carolina was. But whether the now-favored Mitt Romney or previously surging Newt Gingrich wins Florida on Tuesday, the race will still be alive when it arrives here Feb. 4, and all four of the remaining candidates will come, along with many national media folks.

And that’s what scares me.

The Nevada Republican Party has in recent years seemed to leap off Rube Goldberg’s drawing board. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exerted hegemony over the state Democratic organization, populating it with seasoned professionals, the GOP seemed to be auditioning for a spot on “The Biggest Loser.”

And now, we entrust these people to put on a show for the country, the world? Yes, I’m terrified.

This should be a time of glory for the state but instead we have the Amy “Should I stay or should I go” Tarkanian chairmanship, we have an extra caucus at a school named for the man (Sheldon Adelson) whose family has given $10 million to boost Newt Gingrich and we have a prescription for chaos and possibly contested results that should be available to ravenous East Coast media outlets shortly before “Meet the Press” airs the day after.

It didn’t have to be this way.

I won’t reiterate all the reasons the caucus should have been on Jan. 14, as originally planned. There was no reason to move, except that the powers that be jellyfish didn’t want to ruffle any feathers or want to feather their nicer nests in Tampa at the national convention. So be it.

But this caucus has always been slated for a Saturday, so there were going to be observant Jews and others who would have argued they were being discriminated against. The idea that it had to be on a Saturday because it is a caucus and a caucus takes several hours of time doesn’t hold water. Many of the caucuses on the calendar — Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota, to name a few — are during the week. The fact that Nevada is relatively new at the caucus game and needs more time does not inspire confidence in the Feb. 4 balloting.

But even if it had to be on a Saturday, why not deal with possible objections early on — as in, months ago — rather than allowing Adelson and others to raise the issue at the eleventh hour and then schedule it at his eponymously named school. Yes, The Adelson School was picked before he and his wife, Miriam, ponied up $10 million for the Gingrich-aligned SuperPAC, Winning Our Future. But why take the chance considering the Las Vegas Sands chairman’s outsized influence in GOP politics?

Not surprisingly, the other campaigns are grumbling about the arrangement because A) No one trusts the state party B) Some think the potential for fraud is immense C) Others say that the Adelson siting has at least a perceptual problem and maybe a real one (i.e. Newt-packing).

I find it ironic that the Clark County GOP, which has pushed the extra nighttime caucus, is the petri dish for all manner of fraud conspiracy theories, whether it is about Reid not really beating Angle or secretary of state voter regulations, leading one top party official to argue voting “is a privilege not a right.”

These are the folks now demanding a caucus that could be an invitation to fraud? Yes, welcome to Nevada, national presidential campaigns and national reporters.

Having what surely will become known as the Adelson caucus could also make the results susceptible to challenge, even though state law generally says parties can set their own rules. But why should a county with 60 percent of the state’s Republicans have two caucuses while the other 16 only get to have one?

The state party folks announced with great enthusiasm Friday that Twitter will deliver the caucus results and they will have Google maps, too — a terrific plan. But I can just imagine the tweets as the day/night drags on: “A 24-hour-caucus for a 24-hour town — where are the results?” Or: “Is Sheldon Adelson counting the votes first?” Or: “Why don’t the four of them just play a game of craps for it instead?”

So, yes, I am worried.

No matter what religion you follow — or if you are an atheist and willing to make an exception — now would be a good time to say a prayer for Nevada.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 2 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Don't worry, Jon. If the GOP does "botch the big moment" you can always look forward to the Libertarian Party's national convention in Las Vegas.

  2. We already botched our big moment. What we learned from the caucus fiasco is that our GOP in Nevada will bow to the RNC even if it hurts our state to do so. Grow a backbone, guys.