LAS VEGAS- The campaign for the GOP presidential nomination is heating up in Las Vegas and PJ Media is on the ground, surveying the political chess board.
The caucus in Nevada is a relatively new phenomenon, beginning in 2008 and falling relatively early in the primary process: it’s the third primary vote for the Democrats and fourth for the GOP in 2016.
There are only two public polls released for the Nevada GOP caucus. CNN/ORC conducted a poll from 2/10-2/14 among 245 respondents. I dismiss this entirely as the sample size is too small to have any scientific weight.
The other poll from Gravis was conducted from 2/14-2/15 among 687 likely voters and shows Trump in the lead with 39%, Cruz with 23% and Rubio with 19%. But it’s not so certain Trump is headed for a big win.
The terms of the GOP caucus in Nevada are different than in Iowa. Iowa allows people to register to vote on the same day as the caucus; this is not so for the GOP in Nevada. The Nevada Democrats have same-day registration (of course) for their caucus, which was held on February 20.
Below, a picture of people waiting to register at a Las Vegas Democrat caucus location. The event was so disorganized and chaotic, it was unclear if this was a line to register to caucus or register to vote. I would not be surprised if these folks were registering to vote. Or perhaps even registering to vote again.
For the GOP Nevada caucus, participants must be registered to vote at least 10 days in advance of the caucus. This means that campaigns had to register their supporters to caucus in advance. It’s too late now and it was too late to register people to vote this past weekend.
Which of the three leading candidates does this impact the most? Trump. It’s been well-established that Trump has a weak ground game, relying on earned media coverage and large events to drive out voters. This was the big question during the Iowa caucuses, whether Trump’s media-driven campaign would result in his new-to-the-process supporters actually turning out and caucusing.
It’s the same question in Nevada with the added twist of the registration requirement.
If Trump is bringing out new voters and the politically alienated crowd, he had to have people on the ground here registering supporters at least for the last month. According to the Iowa entrance poll, 30% of Trump voters were first timers, more than any other candidate. Cruz had 23% of first-time voters, while Rubio had 22%.
(I’ll be writing about the Cruz ground game later today, but they don’t have any issue with GOTV efforts. I’ll be visiting the Rubio camp later today to see what they have going on with their supporters.)
Trump has the most at stake with the first-time voters if the trend holds. Did his campaign have folks on the ground registering people to vote? I don’t know for sure because the Trump campaign refused to talk to me when I visited their campaign headquarters. I was directed to contact someone via email because “everything has to go through New York.” I never heard back.
One knowledgeable source who is not affiliated with a specific campaign tells me that about 8,000 people have registered GOP in the last 90 days. How many of these folks are Trump supporters or a result of Trump effort is unknown. To put this in perspective, in 2012, around 33,000 showed up to caucus and in 2008 that number was around 44,000.
Trump’s performance here depends on how prepared his Nevada team was. We’ll know tomorrow once the caucus results start to roll in.
More reports from the ground in Nevada will follow.