Nevada moved its Republican caucuses from January to tomorrow in order to avoid a conflict with New Hampshire that would have potentially pushed the primary calendar into December 2011. As a reward for such good behavior, the state’s caucuses have been completely marginalized by the Florida primary. Nevada will probably only generate major headlines in the unlikely event that Mitt Romney loses.
But the caucus will still bear watching. It will be Newt Gingrich’s first opportunity to avenge his Florida loss. It will be Rick Santorum’s first chance to eat into Gingrich’s support and present himself as the new conservative alternative to Romney. It will also be the first test of Ron Paul’s caucus strategy. Most local observers say that Romney and Paul have the best organizations working the caucus, but polls show Gingrich with more organic popularity than Paul. The Nevada polls can be unreliable, however: In the 2008 final results, Romney and Paul both received nearly double the vote percentage the pre-caucus polling average had predicted. Finally, it bears watching whether Romney can use Nevada to begin a winning streak that will make February a tough month for his opponetns.
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