Sunday, June 18, 2023

Sunday Series: What exactly are Nevada Republicans up to on delegate rules for 2024?

Nevada is, to a great degree, the redheaded stepchild of the early primary calendar. 

It almost always has been since the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2006 added the Nevada caucuses to the lineup for the 2008 cycle. Those caucuses in the Silver state were to have been between Iowa and New Hampshire under the rules adopted by national Democrats, but then Florida and Michigan crashed the party, pushing into January and setting off a domino effect on the rest of the early calendar. 

The Michigan move to January 15 forced the primary in New Hampshire, under state law, up two weeks, earlier than prescribed in the DNC rules. But Nevada Democrats hung back, keeping the party's caucuses at the point on the calendar consistent with the national party guidelines, 17 days before Super Tuesday. 

Thereafter, the Democratic rules institutionalized Nevada in the third position in the calendar order rather than in the second slot. 

Things were different on the Republican side of the ledger. Never intended to be a part of the early Republican calendar for 2008, Nevada Republicans, nonetheless, aligned their caucuses with the precinct meetings of Silver state Democrats in the middle of January. That had the benefits of moving the Republican caucuses into the mix and not ceding the early organization in the state to Democrats. But it also ultimately meant the Republican caucuses would be scheduled on the same date as the Republican primary in South Carolina.

However, because the 2008 delegate allocation in Nevada was not bound to the results of those caucuses, Republicans in the state skirted national party penalties on the timing of primaries and caucuses. After all, it was the DNC that had added Nevada to the early calendar for 2008. National Republicans had not. In fact, the Republican National Committee (RNC) did not exempt Nevada in their rules until the 2010 series of amendments were added to the rules adopted at the 2008 national convention in St. Paul. And even then, the Nevada Republican precinct caucuses did not elect, select, allocate or bind delegates to the national convention in 2012. Ron Paul ultimately controlled that delegation in Tampa.

Regardless, the Nevada caucuses had been added to the list (in the rules) of carve-out states the RNC allowed to hold contests before Super Tuesday. But the implementation of the caucuses in both 2008 and 2012 was problematic enough that it never seemed as if Nevada Republicans and the caucuses were on solid ground on the early calendar. Although no overt threats to Nevada's position ever really materialized, the legacy of the reluctant Republican adoption of Nevada as a part of the early presidential primary calendar has persisted. It has been ingrained in the fabric of how presidential campaigns have approached the state in the intervening years. 

Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the caucuses in Nevada were not and have not long been a featured part of the early Republican calendar. And it shows. Nevada often goes unmentioned in stories of candidate trips to the early states and when candidates do show up in the Silver state, the state is often talked about as a forgotten (or not focused upon) aspect of the beginnings of the nomination process. 

But is that about to change or is it in the process of changing? 

No, FHQ does not mean the DeSantis visit to the Silver state this weekend is a change. Rather, it is something else oddly buried in the next to last paragraph in an NBC story about it. 
But, [former Nevada Republican Party executive director, Zachary] Moyle noted, Nevada does present a “massive opportunity” to candidates because of its “winner-take-all” system, in which all of its delegates are awarded to the candidate who carries the state.
This is actually news that either is big or deserves a fact check. Nevada conducting a primary or (likely) caucuses with winner-take-all rules in the early window of the Republican process is or would be a big deal. Sure, there are only roughly 25 delegates at stake, but if they were all to be allocated to the winner statewide, then that could prove to be a bigger net delegate margin than in a much larger state with far more delegates on the line under a more proportional system. Nevada could punch about its weight and deliver a fairly major victory early in the process. 

But is Nevada winner-take-all? 


According to Zachary Moyle, yes. But the standing rules that are posted on the Nevada Republican Party web page as of this writing suggest no:
In accordance with the Rules of the Republican National Committee, in Presidential election years, the Nevada Republican Party chooses that its National Delegates and Alternates shall be allocated proportionally based on the final results of the Nevada Presidential Preference Poll, the Alternative Presidential Preference Poll or the Presidential Primary Election, as appropriate, rounded to the nearest whole number.
Granted, those rules date to June 2020 after the Alternative Presidential Preference Poll (APPP) of the last cycle, a contest where President Trump won all of the delegates from the Silver state. But the APPP is not necessarily designed to be a winner-take-all contest. It is a contest that is triggered by an incumbent Republican president seeking reelection. But other candidates are eligible under the rules and can gain access to the ballot with the signatures of 20 members of the Nevada Republican Party State Central Committee. None did in time for the 2020 vote among the members of the NRPSCC, so Trump was the only name on the ballot. And by extension, he won all of the available Nevada delegates. 

But in a competitive cycle in a Nevada Presidential Preference Poll (caucuses) or a Presidential Primary Election, the allocation would be proportional. 

However, maybe those rules are obsolete. They could be. It may just be that the Nevada Republican Party has adopted new rules for 2024 in the time since June 2020 and the web page has simply not been updated. This is entirely possible.

But winner-take-all? In February?
Assume for a moment that the currently posted rules are wrong. They are outdated and a new version detailing the winner-take-all allocation rules for 2024 have not replaced them. Well, that does raise an interesting question. 

Are states with contests before March 15 not prohibited from using truly winner-take-all rules, where a plurality winner statewide wins all of the delegates? Yeah, actually that is true. But here is the thing: under Rule 16(c)(1) Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are exempt from both the winner-take-all restrictions and (for the most part) the timing restrictions barring states from holding contests before March 1. 


If the Nevada rules have been changed and are now winner-take-all, then technically, that is compliant under RNC rules. And that is a reality that is flying under the radar for A LOT of people, including the campaigns. A winner-take-all Nevada is a Nevada that more candidates would be flocking to. They are not. least not yet. 

What about that Nevada Republican Party lawsuit against the new presidential primary?
That may be the funny thing here. The lawsuit may actually point toward the posted rules being outdated. 


A cursory dig through those rules turns up this section:
§ 7.0 Primary Election Contingency.
Should state law be amended to provide for a Presidential Primary Election, the provisions of this chapter regulating a Presidential Preference Poll shall be null and void, but all other provisions not related to the Poll otherwise regulating Precinct Meetings shall remain in force.
Read that section. It seems receptive to a presidential primary. It defers to any newly amended law providing for a presidential primary in the Silver state. If the Nevada Republican Party has not changed the rule, then that conflicts with the stated intent of the lawsuit. If the rule has been changed or stricken, then the recent presence of such a rule undermines lawsuit to some degree. Look, parties have the freedom of association under the first amendment and a party can alter the rules that govern it. Nevada Republicans are on firm ground there. But it is not a good look if the current rules give (or recently gave) a thumbs up to the presidential primary and the state party is suing to get out of it. That would not suggest good management at the party. 

But again, the rules may be different. They could have been altered since June 2020 and the new version not posted. It happens. But the questions now are this:

1) Are there different rules in place for 2024 than the ones posted, dated June 2020?

2) What are those rules? Do they include a truly winner-take-all allocation method in the early window? Do those changes eliminate the presidential primary contingency? 

If Nevada is actually winner-take-all in the Republican process, then that is a big deal that deserves a lot more discussion than it has received to this point in the invisible primary. It certainly begs for a more prominent position than the next-to-last paragraph in a story. 

But if the rules are the same, then why did that winner-take-all reference from Moyle go unchecked?

A lot of questions. Not a lot of answers. Not yet anyway.


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