The history of the Nevada Republican caucus is brief. The Silver State only joined the ranks of the early nominating contests in 2008. And because it is a caucus rather than a primary, voters have been slow to embrace Nevada’s new special status.
Due to the low turnout and the vagaries of the caucus system, you can go ahead and throw out pre-election polls. While Iowans know a thing or two about caucusing, Nevadans are just getting up to speed.
Democrats have more experience with the caucus system in Nevada, but even they proved the point about polling on Saturday when what was supposed to be a dead heat between Hillary Clinton and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders turned out to be an easy win for the Democratic frontrunner.
Further confounding efforts to figure out what tonight’s results will be is the fact that in the two prior GOP caucuses, the Republican field included the perfect Nevada candidate: Mitt Romney. Mormon, moderate, and pro-business, Romney was a triple play with the state’s Republicans.
Who stands to inherent the quarter of the electorate that is expected to be Mormon? Romney claimed 88 percent of their votes last time. Where will the state’s substantial libertarian-leaning population end up? Rep. Ron Paul notched an impressive 19 percent of the vote here in 2012. Will evangelical Christians, a minority in the state GOP, turn out to vote, and if so, for whom?
With so many mysteries, it’s time to go to the map.
–30 total delegates, proportionally allocated to candidates with more than 3.33 percent of the popular vote
–10 at-large delegates plus 3 automatic
–12 congressional district delegates, 3 from each of the 4 districts
–5 bonus delegates
–32,965 caucus participants in 2012
–Mitt Romney, 50 percent; Newt Gingrich, 21 percent; Ron Paul, 19 percent; Rick Santorum, 10 percent
–Caucus will take place between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET
[Watch Fox: Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier bring you the latest as the results come in from Nevada at 11 p.m. ET]
More than two-thirds of Nevada’s population lives here in Clark County, and it accounted for a little more than half of the total Republican caucus turnout in 2012. Las Vegas and its sprawling desert suburbs aren’t all the marbles for this contest, but no one can win in the silver state without a strong showing here.
Once a booming place with endless real estate opportunities and a diversifying economy, the past ten years have been harder on Clark County than most places in the country. Foreclosures, setbacks for the gambling industry and a series of failed economic development projects left the county in a lurch.
Along the way, the county saw its politics shift from a Democratic tilt to a deep-blue hue.
Donald Trump ought to do well here, especially in Las Vegas, where he owns a hotel and finds an electorate more like the one who gave him his New Hampshire landslide: more secular, less conservative. The suburbs, though, are the biggest trove of votes and the least predictable given the nature of the three-man race on the GOP side.
In the bitter 2010 Senate primary in which rebel candidate Sharron Angle toppled the party favorite before going on to lose to the embattled Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, Angle won Clark County but only by about half of her margin statewide.
For Sen. Marco Rubio, holding Trump’s volume down with a strong showing in the suburbs will be key. This was Romney’s stronghold in 2012 and Rubio has to, ahem, bet on big turnout among more-affluent, better-educated suburbanites to pull off an upset.
–Median household income: $52,873
–Race: Caucasian, 45 percent; Hispanic or Latino, 30 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 22 percent
–2012 election: Obama 56 percent
–Residents age 65 or older: 13 percent
–The first topless showgirls appeared on Las Vegas in 1957
2012 Republican Caucus result: Mitt Romney, 57 percent; percent; Ron Paul, 19 percent; Newt Gingrich, 16; Rick Santorum, 7 percent
BIGGEST LITTLE SWING COUNTY IN THE WORLD
The northwestern corner of Nevada was once the GOP stronghold that delivered the state to the red team in eight of 10 presidential elections prior to 2008.
But an influx of Californians to the low-taxes and natural beauty of the region around Lake Tahoe and Reno has changed the character of the region and, by extension, the state. However, there are still lots of GOP caucus goers to be had here.
In 2012, 37 percent of GOP caucus turnout came from Washoe County, home to Reno, and the cluster of four small counties to its south that includes the state capital of Carson City.
Trump will have a built-in advantage given the large number of elderly voters here, but Washoe could also be hospitable territory for Ted Cruz. This was the part of the state that was most receptive to Newt Gingrich, Cruz’s 2012 doppelganger.
Rubio will have to find ways to cut into Cruz’s and Trump’s margins here, ideally finding a way to take a quarter of the vote or more.
–Median household income: $53,040
–Race: Caucasian, 64 percent; Hispanic or Latino, 24 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 27 percent
–2012 election: Obama 51 percent
–Residents age 65 or older: 15 percent
–In Reno, located within Washoe County, it is illegal to use profanity in front of a dead body.
2012 Republican Caucus result: Mitt Romney, 42 percent; Newt Gingrich, 28 percent; Ron Paul, 17 percent; Rick Santorum, 12 percent
Carson City County
–Median household income: $51,957
–Race: Caucasian, 69 percent; Hispanic or Latino, 23 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 20 percent
–2012 election: Romney 53 percent
–Residents age 65 or older: 19 percent
–The leader of the first group white men to survey the region was John C. Fremont in 1843.Twelve years later he would be the Republican Party’s first presidential nominee.
2012 Republican Caucus result: Mitt Romney, 38 percent; Newt Gingrich, 32 percent; Ron Paul, 15 percent; Rick Santorum, 14 percent