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February 3rd, 2012

Why Nevada’s Caucuses Matter to Iowans

Tomorrow’s Nevada Caucuses look like they are going to validate Mitt Romney’s position as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Nevada is very hospitable to Romney as it has a large population of Mormons, and it’s also a state where he garnered 51 percent of the vote in 2008.

While it will be interesting to see if either Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul can mount a serious challenge against Romney in Nevada, I’m more interested in the caucuses themselves. More specifically, I hope that the caucuses run smoothly, and state officials don’t experience any hiccups.

Even though Nevada has held a presidential caucus for years, it’s really only the second time that they have had national importance. In 2008, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were really the only two candidates who put much effort into winning the state since it was held on the same day as the South Carolina primary.

It was the first time the Nevada caucuses were placed early in the nomination process. Even though they received some media attention, it’s nothing like they are experiencing this year. That’s great for Nevada voters and the Nevada GOP, but with extra media attention comes added scrutiny on the caucus process itself.

In 2008, myself and two other Iowa GOP officials spent a week in Nevada helping with the caucuses there. It was an eye opening experience. While Iowa has been put through the ringer recently with the results process, the truth of the matter is that 75 percent of the precincts in Iowa are run flawlessly. The other 24.5 percent of the precincts make tiny errors that are easily caught. The remaining half percent either didn’t fill out or lost a piece of paper.

My point is that despite all the negative press, the Iowa Caucuses are well run. That couldn’t be said for the Nevada caucuses four years ago. Thankfully, there were not any problems with the Nevada results in 2008, but there were plenty of things that could have gone wrong. This is not an indictment of the Nevada GOP, but a reality that caucuses are hard enough to pull off in Iowa where they have meant something for years, let alone in a state that isn’t used to the presidential spotlight.

The good news is that it appears that Nevada is better prepared this time around. Nevada GOP Chairman Amy Tarkanian announced on Wednesday that the Nevada Republican Party had recruited over 3,500 caucus volunteers. Four years ago, they were frantically filling in precinct chairs just hours before the caucuses were held.

I have no doubt that the Nevada GOP is better prepared for this caucus than they were in 2008, but as an Iowan, I’m hoping everything goes flawlessly tomorrow. The reason is that any sort of glitch in a caucus state could severely damage the credibility of all caucuses, including the Iowa Caucuses. The fallout from the handling of the Iowa caucus results has already created the specter of problems for Iowa down the road, but another incident might create a problem for caucuses in general.

The worst-case scenario is that there is a push to end the caucus process all together. The argument that state run primaries are more reliable is already out there, but it will intensify if another caucus state has a problem in reporting its results. The problem with getting rid of caucuses all together is that it would create a scenario where the ordering of the nominating process would then be forced to change as well.

If Iowa is no longer a caucus state, then New Hampshire’s laws dictate that it’s contest be held first, before any other similar contest, i.e. other primaries. Basically, one of the main reasons why Iowa is allowed the privilege to go first is because we are a caucus state, not a primary. The Iowa Caucuses already have an image problem, and thus, we don’t need anything else to happen that could make the problem more difficult.

So, while I’ll be interested in how the candidates finish in Nevada on Saturday, I’m more interested that everything runs smoothly – a feeling every Iowa Republican and Democrat should share.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.

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