The Rodney Dangerfield of Early States

If you haven’t heard much about one of the four privileged “early states” in the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating process, it’s probably Nevada, which veteran local political writer Jon Ralston calls “the Rodney Dangerfield of early states.”

As Emily Schultheis of National Journal suggests today, Nevada’s lack of prominence is the product of both geography (it’s a lot further from northeastern media and political centers than the other three states) and history (it’s only been behind the velvet rope of the early states since 2008). This last factor matters a lot: there’s only been one competitive Democratic caucus here, and the two Republican events turned out to be laughers, too, in no small part thanks to the nearly-unanimous support and heavy participation of Mormons backing Mitt Romney.

But still, you’d think with as many candidates as we have this year and the convenience of Las Vegas for fundraising (not to mention, for Republicans, the opportunity to kiss the posterior of Sheldon Adelson), there’d be more candidate activity here. Not so much, it seems.

As of Tuesday, Nevada has hosted 30 separate candidate trips in 2015—miles behind Iowa’s 175 and New Hampshire’s 168. Even South Carolina, which comes after the first two states, has received 90 candidate visits this year.

And in comparison with the relative wealth of public polling available for Iowa and New Hampshire, the only public 2016 polling that has been done for either party in Nevada appears to be several surveys from Gravis Marketing.

Not real sure that’s a credible source; the latest Gravis survey of Nevada Republicans in July has Donald Trump in first place, which is not surprising, but has him doing better with Latinos than with the general population, which is a bit hard to believe.

Another problem with Nevada is that it’s procedures are as arcane as Iowa’s, without Iowa’s long familiarity with caucusing and explaining caucusing. As in Iowa, the Democratic system in Nevada is more elaborate than the Republican system (the latter uses a straight straw poll of attendees to determine Caucus Night “results,” while the latter has affinity groups, minimum thresholds for candidate “viability” and results that can and do vary whether you’re looking at the county delegates elected on Caucus Night or the eventual national delegates).

An effort to switch Nevada back to a presidential primary system failed in the legislature this year.

Things will pick up for Democrats in Nevada by October at the latest, when the state will host the first candidates’ debate. The state should be Hillaryland; she won the county delegate vote count here over Obama (though thanks to the arcane national delegate system Obama won one more national delegate) and already has 22 staffers on the ground.

As for the Republicans:

A handful of top-tier Republicans—including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ted. Cruz, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson—have hired strategists in the state and are in the process of building operations here.

And then there’s Donald Trump with his Latino voter “base.”

Maybe some better polling will have happened here by the fall.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.