Monday, Sept. 3, 2012 | 2 a.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Political conventions are a time for delegates to play up their state’s clout by mixing and mingling with the party’s power elite.
But they are also a chance for states to tell how important they are to the parties by which members of the top brass want to mix and mingle with them.
In Nevada’s case, there’s no comparison: The Democrats are wooing much harder than the Republicans did.
This week, when Nevada’s delegates gather for their daily state breakfast meetings, they will be feted by practically every Democratic party A-lister short of President Barack Obama.
The week’s scheduled roster of breakfast speakers and schmoozers includes Democratic National Convention chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; permanent convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles; Obama campaign manager Jim Messina; top Obama counselor and White House congressional liaison Pete Rouse; and at least two members of the president’s Cabinet.
It is a far cry from the treatment Nevada received at the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., where delegates were ignored by everyone but the most fringe figures of the GOP, such as the Republican voter fraud watchdog group “True the Vote” and 2010’s Tea Party darling Sharron Angle. Even when House Speaker John Boehner and Mitt Romney’s son and surrogate Josh came by the delegation’s hotel to speak with the Pennsylvania representatives, they steered sharply clear of the Nevada breakfast room down the hall.
The difference in party treatment is striking, given Nevada’s stature as a 2012 swing state.
“For a state the size of Nevada to be in the equation on the Democrats’ side and not on the Republican side is quite a phenomenon,” said Truckee Meadows political science professor Fred Lokken. “Normally six electoral votes don’t make much of an impact. But this could be one of the closest races we’ve ever seen.”
The GOP’s inattention to Nevada was in many ways driven by the composition of the delegation: 22 of 25 delegates were Ron Paul supporters, most of whom were determined to, and did, break their obligation to cast a majority of Nevada’s votes for Romney.
“The Nevada Republican delegation was, at best, a sideshow, and at worst, a joke. And so the Republican establishment just ignored them,” said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at UNR.
“They have a pretty significant dysfunctionality ... and the national party recognizes that. It’s not a surprise the speakers they would have would be real marginal figures.”
The GOP’s state of disarray was a familiar narrative in Nevada even before it played out on a national stage last week. The state Republicans are so bifurcated, in fact, that the national Republican party isn’t even working with the official Nevada GOP anymore, opting to fund the upstart parallel “Team Nevada” and various Republican campaigns directly rather than go through an organization now dominated by Paul supporters.
But the Nevada Democrats haven’t had to deal with the same discord — meaning that for them, the convention is “a celebration,” as Lokken described it, and chance to seal a much more long-term deal.
“The Democrats would like to see Nevada move into the blue column and be one of the states they can count on in the 21st century,” Lokken said. “All of the demographics are moving in that direction, as are their efforts on the ground.”
And the star-studded list of Democrats lining up to politically serenade Nevada’s representatives? It just makes it clear that national Democrats are paying close attention to what is happening in a small swing state they may need to punch above its electoral weight class come November.
“The libertarian Nevada Republicans are really not welcome in the party ... but right now, the Nevada Democrats seem to be doing everything right,” Lokken said. “It explains the day-and-night treatment of (Nevada) between the two conventions.”