We’ve now had two caucuses in the Republican nomination process in 2012, and both have embarrassed their state parties in some fashion. In Iowa, it took several days to discover that the initial count had been incorrect, and that Rick Santorum had actually won the contest. The Super Bowl on Sunday finished before the count from Nevada’s Saturday’s caucuses, but this time the favorite beat the spread:
Mitt Romney won Saturday’s Nevada caucuses with his highest portion of a state’s vote yet, just over 50%, according to certified results released Monday by the Nevada Republican Party.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who also won the state’s GOP caucuses in 2008, received more than twice the votes of his closest opponent.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich finished in second place with just over 21% of the vote. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas placed third at 18.7%, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania earned 9.9%.
Romney got his first majority win of the season. The 29-point win slightly outperformed the pre-caucus polling, but Romney came up a little short of his 51% victory in Nevada’s 2008 caucuses. Republicans came up short as well, casting 11,000 fewer votes than four years ago, a dropoff of about 25%. That will keep concerns alive about base enthusiasm in this cycle.
One surprise from the weekend was Ron Paul, whose support turned out to be disappointingly small in a state where he had his best chance to compete:
But in a state where expectations for his campaign were higher than anywhere else to date, the Texas congressman’s third-place finish marked an underwhelming outcome for a candidate whose strategy is predicated on running well in caucus states like Nevada. …
While Paul won a respectable 19 percent Saturday — 5 points higher than four years ago — he nevertheless placed third behind Newt Gingrich, whose haphazard Nevada effort barely compared to Paul’s disciplined and well-organized operation. …
Paul set up a Nevada office more than six months ago. His campaign claimed thousands of volunteers. They aggressively targeted service workers, Latinos, rural voters, veterans and even Mormons.
While Gingrich invested no money on television ads in the state, Paul outspent even winner Mitt Romney. Paul poured in $869,650 compared to Romney’s $488,460 since the start of the year, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
But the returns were modest. In 2008, he carried just one of the Nevada’s 17 counties or their equivalents. This year, he carried two. He lost a third, Storey County, to Romney by one vote — 53 to 52.
Storey County is the home of the brothel owned by Dennis Hof, who had actively campaigned for Paul. Looks like his “Pimping for Paul” campaign didn’t quite measure up.
Is it time to end caucuses? They’re a holdover from the 19th century, and they end up being less efficient and less reliable than primaries. Proponents argue that it allows the parties’ activist base to dictate to the establishment, but we have seen little evidence of that in Iowa and Nevada. What we have seen is outmoded methods of ballot-casting and counting that take days to get right, when states already have the infrastructure to allow all registered voters (or those within one party in closed primaries) to participate, regardless of whether they can show up in one narrow time frame on a single day to participate.