Nevada in 2012: The chopped liver caucus

by
February 8, 2011

By MOLLY BALL, Politico

In 2008, Nevada Republicans threw an early presidential primary caucus — and practically nobody came.

For 2012, they’re hopeful the candidates will pay more attention. They point to the fact that unlike last time, Nevada has been approved this time as an early state by the Republican National Committee.

Also unlike last time, in 2012 the Nevada caucuses will be binding and proportional, which the state’s Republicans hope will make them a bigger deal.

Yet, there’s already evidence that the state again is being treated like chopped liver. More potential GOP candidates have traveled to Israel this year — three — than to Nevada.

The prospective presidential candidates have been ramping up their schedules in recent weeks, but the only one to visit Nevada since the new year is Sarah Palin, who gave the keynote speech at the Safari International convention of big-game hunters in Reno last week.

The speech was closed to all except paid ticket holders, including the press. The state’s Republican national committeewoman, Heidi Smith, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that her phone had been ringing off the hook with locals clamoring to see Palin themselves — but no dice.

“I know a lot of people wanted her to do something for the [local] Republican Party, but right now, she is a hunter and a shooter, and that is what Safari got her for,” Smith told the paper. “They’re paying the big bucks for her.”

Meanwhile, in the past month, Rick Santorum has visited Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Tim Pawlenty hit Iowa and New Hampshire on his book tour; Newt Gingrich made appearances in Iowa and South Carolina. Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, went to all three states. Herman Cain, the conservative activist and former pizza-company CEO, went to Iowa.

Palin’s speech in Reno got some notice for her pro-gun remarks. But few saw fit to analyze it as dipping a toe into a potential early state. Contrast that with Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose recent trips to Iowa and South Carolina have swiftly created a snowball of presidential hype.

Even Sharron Angle, the Nevada Republican who lost the 2010 Senate race to Harry Reid, got asked on a recent Iowa visit whether she was running for president. No one asks her that question back home.

“Most people in the [national] political establishment, if you ask them to name the early states, probably forget that Nevada has moved up,” admitted Robert Uithoven, a GOP consultant and lobbyist based in Reno.

To read more, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/48914.html#ixzz1DMs3HgUC

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