Nevada’s best possible caucus-primary outcomes, ranked

October 19, 2023 5:00 am
what could possibly go wrong

Michael McDonald. Wrong on democracy. Wrong for Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

The best possible outcome of Nevada’s Republican presidential contests in February would be the much-deserved demise of the organization currently going by the name of the Nevada State Republican Party, in combination with the second-best outcome.

The second-best possible outcome would be the state-run primary helping to possibly slow Donald Trump’s march to the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

And of course the worst possible outcome is the most likely one, in which:

  • the Nevada caucus rubber stamps Trump;
  • the Nevada primary turns some other contender into a flash in the pan for no more than a news cycle or two;
  • the state Republican Party continues to put Trump first, not Nevada;
  • and confusion over the dueling contests further erodes Republican voters’ trust in democracy.

Failed on purpose

Nevada is the third state on the Republican presidential nomination calendar, after Iowa and New Hampshire, and candidates have filled out their dance cards for either the Nevada caucus or primary (yes, both are happening).

The Nevada State Republican Party has been trying as hard as it can to create confusion and chaos and deliberately turn Nevada’s early spot on the calendar into a farce, all designed to produce that worst possible outcome.

If you haven’t been paying attention, because you have a life (congratulations), there will be two Republican presidential contests in Nevada in February, a state–run primary on Feb. 6 and an entirely separate privately run Nevada Republican Party caucus Feb. 8.

The state is required to hold an official primary under a law enacted in 2021. 

The Nevada State Republican Party is not required to hold a caucus. But it’s holding one anyway, because Donald Trump told it to, and the state party is a Trump operation, like Trump Steaks or Trump University. The simplest and most basic explanation for the party holding a caucus is that fake elector and state party chair Michael McDonald is one of Trump’s lap dogs.

Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie have both said they’ll challenge Trump in the caucus, even though it’s rigged for Trump. Perhaps it’s their shared history of being drawn to Trump, all moth-flame like, and they can’t kick the habit.

Vivek Ramaswamy and that governor of some Dakota or other say they’ll vie in the caucus as well. Yes, nobody cares.

The state party has issued several decrees with respect to its caucus. One of them is that only the caucus results – and not the primary’s – will be taken into account when assigning delegates to the Republican National Republican Convention.

Again, nobody cares. Or if they do, they shouldn’t.

There will be 2,467 delegates at the convention. 

Nevada has 26 of them.

New Hampshire will be sending 22 delegates. Iowa has 40. Nobody cares about those delegates either. 

Candidates don’t want to win early states for delegates. They want to win them for the buzz, for momentum to carry into later states.

Universally acknowledged as a complete and total Donald Trump Production, the Nevada State Republican Party presidential caucus is guaranteed to generate zero positive buzz, either on the campaign trail or for Nevada.

Reaction to it – and its inevitable results (Trump wins!) – both in and out of Nevada will consist mostly of mockery and eye-rolls. 

Ideally, that humiliation will help finally prompt enough disgust among Nevada Republican voters – a far larger portion of whom will vote in the primary than the caucus – to take their party back.

They’ll have to do it themselves

Unlike the caucus, the state-mandated primary will be an actual legitimate election, with fair rules, and impartially administered by professional grown-ups in the Nevada secretary of state’s office and county election offices.

The three main entrants are Mike Pence, famous mostly for Trump worshipers roaming the halls of Congress while chanting their intention to hang him, and a pair of South Carolinians, former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott.

Like DeSantis, Christie, and Pence, Haley’s career has involved the eager and willing normalization of Trump. Scott seems to channel whatever is trending in his party, but with a smile. So Trumpism with a smile.

Both Haley and Scott would be horrible presidents, especially on the social and economic justice fronts. (Both scare the living daylights out of the Biden campaign, by the way).

The South Carolina primary is the next contest after Nevada, on February 24. Next after that on the election calendar is Super Tuesday, March 5. That’s when people will start caring about delegates, because nearly 800 of them will be at stake that day. 

However poorly they do in New Hampshire and Iowa, both Haley and Scott will hopefully stick around for Nevada, in the chance/hope they can go to South Carolina and say they won something. Whoever wins the Nevada primary will likely be the only candidate other than Trump who can claim a victory by that point.

Right now, nobody expects any of that to translate to a Trump loss in South Carolina, let alone widespread defeats for Trump on Super Tuesday. (The winner of the Nevada primary might be the only Republican presidential candidate other than Trump to win a contest of any kind in 2024). 

But the Nevada primary winner will necessarily be spending at least some time over the ensuing two weeks touting and defending the quality of that victory, which means belittling the Trump property in Nevada masquerading as a legitimate state party.

And maybe that will help awaken shamed Nevada Republican voters into rising up and kicking McDonald and the rest of his morally bankrupt and anti-American party organization leadership to the social and political curb.

Elected Republican officials, specifically Gov. Joe Lombardo and Rep. Mark Amodei, have demonstrated time and again they lack the heart or the guts to take their state party back. Rank and file Republicans will have to do it themselves. Hopefully someday they will, not just for their own sake, but for the entire state’s.

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