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VICTOR JOECKS: Nevada GOP’s presidential caucus plan is nuts

Only a Democrat could love how the Nevada Republican Party is handling its role in the presidential selection process.

Nevada holds the third-earliest contest in the GOP presidential nominating process. By law, Nevada will have a presidential primary on Feb. 6. But the state party announced Monday that its delegates will be awarded at a caucus held two days later. Further, the state party is telling candidates that, if they file with the state for the primary, they can’t participate in the caucus.

Therein lies a major missed opportunity to make Nevada a redder state.

Most people don’t follow politics closely. Look at how voter turnout plummets in local elections. Well-run political organizations spend extraordinary amounts of money registering voters who are sympathetic to their cause. This makes it easier to turn out those voters in subsequent elections.

Presidential elections attract the most interest for obvious reasons. This is a huge recruiting opportunity for early voting states. If a political party plays it right, it can excite voters about their outsized role in selecting the next president. Competing campaigns will spend their money finding and targeting new voters who then register with that party.

This isn’t a fanciful fairy tale. In December 2007, Nevada Democrats had only a 5,000 voter-registration advantage over Republicans. That was just a 0.5-point advantage. Nevada was very much a swing state. By February 2008, Democrats had a more than 40,000-voter lead in registration, giving them a 4-point lead.

What happened? Democrats held a competitive caucus in January 2008, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battling it out. Good organization and the interest in that caucus generated a massive bump in voter registration. By the general election, the party’s lead topped 100,000. Today, it’s down to 50,000.

If Republicans this year could replicate what Democrats did in 2008, Nevada’s registration would be almost even. And with a gerrymandered Legislature, that should be the Nevada Republican Party’s No. 1 priority. This effort should include promoting same-day voter registration and ballot harvesting. If Democrats get to exploit bad policies, Republicans must as well.

At a minimum, the Nevada GOP should make things straightforward for voters. Candidates must have confidence that the state party isn’t putting its thumb on the scale for a favored candidate. Otherwise, campaigns won’t invest the resources that could produce a jump in voter registration.

Instead, the Nevada Republican Party has made the process extremely convoluted in an apparent effort to legally rig the election for the Trump campaign. Oh, the irony. Little wonder so few presidential candidates have bothered to show up here.

This strategy is also terribly short-sighted for Donald Trump. In 2016, Nevada was one of his best states in the Republican primary. He doesn’t need help to win here. And if he does, his campaign would have much bigger problems. He does need help to win the general — the kind of help that 40,000 newly registered Republicans could provide. He lost Nevada to Biden by fewer than 34,000 votes.

The Nevada Republican Party needs to reverse course. Don’t confuse voters. Use this unique opportunity to get them registered.

Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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