Primary vs. caucus: What will Nevada do?

UPDATED, 4/27/15, 11:30 AM:

Key insiders in both houses tell me that the final bill likely will have the February primary for all races, which will thrill incumbents of both parties, and a carve out for the Democrats to still have a caucus. It's dynasty time in Nevada, folks, and manna for pundits.

I'm also reliably told that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who was in Las Vegas this weekend at Sheldonfest, is quietly supporting the primary and has made calls. Why quietly? Because Priebus knows how nuts the state party is, I'd guess, and wants this as far away from those folks as possible, but knows he may have to work with them.

Remember the Clark County GOP, like the state dominated by Rand Paul backers, once called for Priebus' resignation. That was over allocation of national convention delegates, which, if history is a guide, will become an issue again, no matter what happens. Mark my words.

Priebus also can hang his hat on the post-2012 dissection of the GOP's failure, the so-called Growth and Opportunity Report, which said:

We also recommend broadening the base of the Party and inviting as many voters as possible into the Republican Party by discouraging conventions and caucuses for the purpose of allocating delegates to the national convention. Our party needs to grow its membership, and primaries seem to be a more effective way to do so. The greater the number of people who vote in a Republican primary, the mroe likley they will turn out and vote again for the Republican candidate in the fall election."

Note: GOP caucus turnout in 2012 was....7 percent.

One more point: This would not have the fuel it has if Gov. Brian Sandoval hasn't signed off. But will he stand by it if the bill gets caught up in end of session wrangling over his budget/tax plan?


When it first surfaced weeks ago, I called the bill to change Nevada from a caucus state to a primary state and make it the first one to cast ballots in the White House race the Screw Bill Gardner and Terry Branstad Bill, a reference to New Hampshire's omnipotent secretary of state and Iowa's governor.

It’s an obvious move to take the administration of the balloting here away from the inept state party and hurt Rand Paul, whose supporters elected Michael McDonald, who has led the state GOP to its lowest point in finances and credibility. The Washington Examiner’s David Drucker got McDonald, who has been assuring the Paul people he is with them on a caucus (not that it matters what he thinks), to say he is for a primary in this piece. (Hilariously, the Bunce Brothers, who oversee the Paul operation in Nevada, took to Twitter after I linked to Drucker's piece, implying McDonald had been misquoted. Not a chance. What was it P.T. Barnum said?)

This is not so simple, though.

This is what has developed since the legislation was introduced weeks ago:

There are two bills -- one in the Assembly (AB 302) and one in the Senate (SB 421). The Senate bill would move all Nevada primaries to February from June, which is clearly insane and obvious incumbent-protection. The campaign would be never-ending, would start right after the Legislature and would make the silly season year round.

Wait, come to think of it, it's terrible policy but it could be good for business...

Although a primary, especially with two weeks of early voting, could be great for the state and give it even more focus as a presidential campaign player, it's unclear how the RNC and DNC would react. The issue of Nevada being first seems to have ebbed, but changing the rules could potentially jeopardize Nevada's early-state status.

GOP Establishment types want the change to give the results more credibility and not give an advantage to the Paul folks or to a small cohort such as the LDS vote, which proprelled Mitt Romney to victory here twice. But they also know giving this responsibility to the state party is like asking a 4-year-old to do a calculus problem. There are many idiots in the state party, few idiot savants.

I'm also reliably told that GOP campaigns seriously are considering not playing in Nevada if it is a caucus. They see it as a setup for Paul and not worth spending the time and money. That may be brinkmanship, but it's out there.

By contrast, the Democrats like the caucus model as an organziing tool, don't want to lose the state's early-state status, and I'm sure they would love to see the Republicans make fools of themesleves, as they did in 2012 when it took days to count the votes.

There also may be legal problems. Said one insider with knowledge of what is happening: "SB 421 and AB 302 both have a chance. The problem is that I don't know that either will pass unless the choice is voluntary by the parties. Requiring a primary of both is probably unconstitutional, too."

Finally, the political positioning on this is Wonderland-like: Republicans arguing to let government run it because it is more efficient, and Democrats insisting it will be too expensive for the state to do it.

Both bills currently are entombed in committees. But that means little when late May arrives: My guess is this gets caught up in the endgame negotiating.

But the most important concern should be the obvious one: Make sure we still matter.