Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Is confusion inevitable in the Nevada Republican Party primary/caucus situation?

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • A belated look at the recent DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting. Yes, Iowa and New Hampshire stole the headlines -- and for good reason -- but there was some other interesting stuff that transpired in St. Louis. Some thoughts on Iowa, New Hampshire and all the rest: All the details at FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
In the wake of the filing deadlines passing for both the Nevada presidential primary and the Republican caucuses in the Silver state over the previous two days, Natasha Korecki of NBC News had a piece up about the confusion the two contests may create for Nevada Republican voters next year. 

It is not the first time the notion of voter confusion has arisen in the context of the double dip elections taking place in Nevada in 2024. But it does raise some questions. Why are Nevada voters different from other voters who have encountered similar two-pronged processes like this in past cycles? Why (or maybe how) is the Nevada primary and caucus situation different from states that have had both previously? Is any of this primary/caucus conundrum in the Silver state unique at all? 

First of all, FHQ is of a mind that Nevada voters are not substantively different from voters in, say, Nebraska or Washington. Both had Democratic caucuses for allocating delegates and a state-run beauty contest primary as recently as 2016. Voters did not appear to be anymore confused than usual at the process in either case. Sure, more folks showed up to participate in the primaries than the caucuses, but that is not a new feature of the caucus/convention process. They are low turnout affairs by nature (if not design). 

Yet, one difference between those two sets of contests from 2016 and the Nevada situation in 2024 is their timing, or rather the time between the two events. Nebraska and Washington Democrats had March caucuses before May beauty contest primaries. That two months buffer (and the sequencing!) was different than what will take place in Nevada next February. Only two days will separate the state-run beauty contest primary on February 6 from the Republican party-run caucuses on February 8. And the binding contest will follow the beauty contest. So maybe that is a little different. 

But still, confusion? Texas Democrats did not seem to be muddling through the Texas two-step all those years. For much of the post-reform era Democrats in the Lone Star state held a primary and caucuses on the same day. The primary allocated about two-thirds of the delegates while the post-primary caucuses allocated the remainder later in the evening. [Incidentally, while the Texas two-step died on the Democratic side starting with the 2016 cycle, Republicans in the state have revived it and will use it again in 2024.] Voters seemed to make it through that process. Delegates were allocated. And all of it happened with no buffer between the two contests. 

But the real difference between Nevada in 2024 and some other earlier similar examples is that there will be interesting cross-pressures in the Silver state next year. Some debate-qualifying candidates will be urging Nevadans (at least to some extent) to participate in the primary for which they already have a ballot in the mail. Others, and it is most of the big-name candidates, will be trying to get out the vote in the caucuses two days later. 

That is different than previous examples. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were on the primary and caucus ballots in Nebraska and Washington. Barack Obama and Clinton were both participants in both phases of the Texas two-step in March 2008. None of those candidates were working against another group of candidates who were only vying for delegates or attention in one or the other of the two contests in a given double dip state. 

What this Nevada Republican situation is akin to is like what happened in the Michigan Democratic primary in 2008. Under rules new to the DNC that cycle, candidates were not supposed to campaign in states like Michigan (or Florida for that matter) that held unsanctioned primaries earlier than allowed by the national parties. But some Democratic candidates -- Obama and John Edwards among others -- went a step further and removed their names from the January 15 ballot in the Great Lakes state. Clinton did not. The former group asked their supporters to vote for "uncommitted" in the primary in the hopes of swinging some delegates in any subsequent fight, but that Obama and Edwards were not on the ballot had some impact on turnout. 

And it is likely that the split filings across contests will have some impact on turnout in the Nevada beauty contest primary. But that dampening effect and any felt by the primary being a beauty contest may be masked to some extent by the convenience of voting by mail on a ballot provided to all registrants. Even without that masking effect, the turnout is very likely to be higher, if not much higher, in the primary than in the caucus. And participation in the primary may even be a drag on later caucus participation. 

That may or may not also be by design. 

From around the invisible primary...


No comments: