States that hold caucuses instead of primaries depend on larger numbers of reliable volunteers because each political party handles the process rather including state elections officials. State parties also set up their own systems for determining which candidate voters prefer. The caucus is a true grassroots method in the nominating process, but the chaos after Iowa and Nevada raises questions.
In Iowa, results from 8 precincts couldn’t be certified. I haven’t been able to determine the number of votes that represents. The most troubling outcome in Iowa was mistaking the winner. Mitt Romney was declared the victor in the January 3 race, and he enjoyed momentum because of it. More than a week later, the real winner was declared—Rick Santorum.
In Nevada, two days after the GOP Presidential Caucus, votes are still being counted from one of the state’s most heavily populated counties. Ahead of the caucus, Romney was projected to win the state by media; the projections were fueled by pundits and some power brokers in the GOP.
Ironically, that perception may have decreased turnout. Acting GOP chair James Smack told The Reno Gazette-Journal , “A lot of people felt the state was in the bag for Mitt Romney.”
The paper said 44,000 Republicans voted in the Nevada caucus in 2008; 110,000 Democrats voted that year.
Turnout is projected to have been less in 2012 for the GOP caucus, but when you consider the total number of registered Republicans in Nevada—400,310—the apathy should raise concerns about the General Election.
Perhaps some people felt it wasn’t worth their trouble.
Florida bumped the state Primary ahead to January 31, throwing the calendars of other states into a muddle. Romney benefited from earlier primary dates because he had holdover support from 2008, and he was clearly the favorite of power brokers like the RNC finance co-chair who informally declared him the nominee before a single vote had been cast.
While manipulating a calendar does provide advantages to a repeat candidate, it also depresses enthusiasm at the grassroots level. The GOP will have to produce record turnout in 2012 to defeat President Barack Obama.
The newspaper said turnout was slightly higher in the first three contests, in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries and in the Iowa caucus. In Florida, turnout was higher. The US Report noted in a previous column that in the Florida primary, turnout was higher in counties won by Newt Gingrich and lower in counties won by Romney.
The caucus system in Nevada is complex, as evidenced by a FAQ section on the state GOP website.
Obviously protocol for these caucuses warrants a close look—chaos will not confer a path to victory in the General Election.
Three states will caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 7: Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Feb. 6, 2012)