NEVADA — Political reporters here—after clearing some hurdles placed in their paths—have seized on two essential elements following Mitt Romney’s sizable win in Saturday’s GOP caucuses in the Silver State.
First, a strong, cohesive organization is vital for victory.
Second, Nevada’s Republican leadership is neither strong nor organized. And, as at least one journalist observed, that could presage poorly for the GOP come November’s general election in this Western swing state.
The final results of Saturday’s caucuses (released at 1:00 a.m. Monday, some 36 hours after the last ballots were cast, due to discrepancies in vote totals) showed Romney garnering 50 percent of the votes from a meager 33,000 or so caucus-goers statewide. (The 2008 GOP caucuses here drew some 44,000).
The former Massachusetts governor had been predicted to win, but pollsters and pundits didn’t expect such a lopsided victory; Newt Gingrich, who finished second, got only 21 percent of the ballots.
As the Las Vegas Sun’s Anjeanette Damon pointed out, Romney built a strong organization in Nevada in 2008, when he also won the Republican caucuses here. Wrote Damon on Sunday:
Building on a foundation of support from the Republican establishment and a network of volunteers, the former Massachusetts governor was best positioned to respond to Nevada caucus rules that were in a constant state of flux and blunt the momentum of the conservative alternative du jour.
While the Romney camp was well-organized, Nevada’s GOP leadership (or lack thereof) was far less so, and emerged from the weekend with a collective black eye—having overseen, as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci put it in a headline, “a jackpot of embarrassments.”
For one, there were the long-delayed caucus results (“The prolonged count,” the Las Vegas Sun reported, “capped a caucus marked by disorganization, bickering and bumbling at nearly every turn.”) For another, there were what the San Francisco Chronicle’s Marinucci described as “clueless media policies” in place at multiple caucus sites. In some of Nevada’s rural counties, Marinucci reported, there was no media access to the caucuses whatsoever. And what of populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and its suburbs? More Marinucci:
Nevada’s Clark County GOP made it downright frustrating to cover an election— it appears by design. The county organization, under the guise of “security purposes,” made media jump through hoops to even get in to observe these gatherings. And they weren’t unusual here: about a third of the state counties didn’t allow media coverage and observation of their election at all—an outrageous decision that should have been condemned by state party officials.
Just three hours after caucusing began on Saturday, the Los Angeles Times’s Ashley Powers reported: “I got kicked out of a Nevada caucus.”
Powers was wearing a press badge issued by the Clark County Republican Party as she started taking notes at Precinct 1721’s caucus in suburban Henderson. Wrote Powers:
the verdict on my presence was loud, and near-unanimous.
“You’re a bunch of liars!” someone shouted.
“Spy! She’s a spy!” someone else said.
A woman waved a button at me, which said: DON’T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA.
Tough crowd, I thought.
Then a man walked over to me and said if I didn’t leave, he’d call security. So I left the room while voters cast their ballots.
A short time later, a male party volunteer tried to tell precinct 1721’s leaders that they were wrong, but at that point I was persona non grata. When I tried to reenter the room, an elderly man said people were still voting, grabbed my arm, pushed me away and shut the door in my face.
Powers dutifully reported that later a GOP official called to apologize. But the damage was done; Powers’s story was out there.
And then there was the special after-Sabbath caucus Saturday evening at a suburban Las Vegas private school, the Adelson (yes, that Adelson) Educational Campus, where Molly Ball, a staff writer for The Atlantic and a former political reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, received a less-than-welcome response to her request to interview one caucus-goer: Sheldon Adelson. Adelson, together with his wife, donated $10 million to a pro-Gingrich super-PAC, and found himself surrounded Saturday night by a sea of Ron Paul supporters. Wrote Ball:
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, sat patiently near the front as caucus-goers, the great majority of them Paul supporters, stood to speak for more than an hour. He leaned his wrist on a cane while she checked her iPhone. Approached by this reporter, he barked, “No comments,” and his bodyguards politely indicated that rule would be enforced.