Nevada Republican party staffers have been hosting caucus training sessions for months. Republican campaign volunteers have been knocking on doors and calling voters since last summer. The candidates themselves have been collecting endorsements and holding events across the state since last spring.
Yet on the eve of Tuesday evening’s GOP caucus, no one has a firm sense of who’s winning here. And worse, there’s an undercurrent of nervousness about the prospect of a caucus calamity.
“It’s true, the smartest people just don’t know what’s going to happen here,” said Pete Ernaut, a Republican consultant who is unaffiliated with a presidential campaign. “Our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. Nevada loves to be independent, but that can also get in the way of being organized and coalesced around an important event, so it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Republican campaigns and state operatives point to a number of factors creating the cloud of confusion: a cash-poor state party in disarray, a public unaccustomed to the caucus process and a state that’s notoriously difficult to poll. Nevada doesn’t have a lot of experience running caucuses – the state picked up its first-in-the-West status in 2008, but it has yet to run smoothly and some campaigns are bracing for possible chaos again.