Sometimes doing the right thing is hard

In my heart, I know former Gov. Bob List is right: Moving Nevada’s Republican presidential caucus from Jan. 14 to Feb. 4 to accommodate New Hampshire’s ridiculous and unreasonable demands is probably the right thing to do.

But why does it still feel like we’re not only capitulating to a bully who’s demanded our lunch money, but we’re going to the cafeteria to get him his food, too?

The Nevada Republican central committee will meet Saturday in Las Vegas to discuss moving the caucus date, culminating a series of increasingly screwed-up events that started when Florida’s Legislature decided to jump the entire country and hold its primary Jan. 31.

Of course, the traditional first four “carve-out” states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — moved their primaries into January to preserve history and their ability to pick winners early. Iowa slated its caucus for Jan. 3, Nevada Jan. 14 and South Carolina Jan. 21, leaving New Hampshire with Jan. 10, a Tuesday, for its first-in-the-nation primary.

But that wasn’t good enough for the Granite State, which demands seven uninterrupted days after its primary before any other state may hold an election. Ostensibly, this is time the rest of the country should use to contemplate the message New Hampshire voters sent at their ballot boxes.

Personally, it reminds me of the now-late and unlamented Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi claiming his nation’s territorial waters extended not just the 12 miles recognized by international law, but 200 miles into the Gulf of Sidra. And just as the United States routinely ignored Gadhafi’s claims, I encouraged the Nevada Republican Party to stand firm on its Jan. 14 date, even after New Hampshire threatened to move its primary into December and encouraged candidates to boycott our Jan. 14 caucus. After all, it never pays to negotiate with terrorists.

But List said Nevada moving its date would be an act of good faith that would eliminate a thorny problem our state didn’t cause, but could help fix.

“There’s a certain amount of ego in this,” List said. “But when you step back from it, in the big picture, this shouldn’t be about ego.”

Instead, List said, it could be about Nevada getting to seat its full slate of 28 delegates (states that jump the calendar may have to forfeit half their delegates). It could be about having candidates call off their boycott and campaign in Nevada. And it could be about Nevada still holding a spot early enough in the process to give a boost to a flagging campaign or put one out of its misery.

Plus, said List, it’s the grown-up thing to do.

“Somebody needs to be the adult in the room,” he said. “We’re not going to play this childish game with the secretary of state of New Hampshire.”

Ah, the great and mighty Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire secretary of state for decades. Nevada offered to allow his state to set its date first, but the canny Gardner refused, only to object when Nevada finally selected Jan. 14. He’s a longtime veteran of calendar wars, and now Nevada can see why.

“I don’t view this as capitulating at all,” List said. “I think it’s a win-win to get rid of the problem.” And while there’s no explicit agreement to give Nevada some tangible benefit for doing the right thing (say, additional money for its caucus) List said he’s confident the state’s act of generosity won’t be forgotten.

In my heart I know List is probably right, and that this is the right thing for Nevada to do. But it still feels wrong.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal columnist and author of the blog Follow him at or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or at

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