Nevada Caucuses (GOP): Predictable?

“Thanks for all your help, Nevada polls.” -No one

Really? Not ONE post-South Carolina poll in Nevada? Was it really impossible to have one conducted on Sunday and/or Monday and released by this morning? We’ve seen a slew of polls from other states, but none from Nevada. You didn’t just let me down, pollsters. You let down the country.

Frankly, I don’t even want to hazard a prediction, despite my astonishing success. (As in, I am literally astonished at any success I have.) For one, there’s the dearth of polling. We have only two 2016 Nevada polls, neither of which took place in the last week:

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But that’s not the only hurdle in our efforts to predict today’s result. There’s also Nevada’s track record. Andrew Romano of Yahoo News gave us an informative column on the state’s unpredictableness. Here are excerpts:

  • Observers aren’t putting a whole lot of stock in [the polls]. Why? Because it’s very, very challenging — if not impossible — to produce a reliable caucus poll here.
  • “It’s a total mystery what’s going to happen. . . . The people who do this for a living are saying, ‘Who knows?'”-Lt. Governor Mark Hutchison
  • Another case in point: 2008. In that year’s final Republican polling average, Mitt Romney led John McCain 25.7 percent to 20.7 percent; Ron Paul was polling at 7.3. But in the actual caucuses, Romney won 51.1 percent of the vote, McCain got 12.7 percent and Paul got 13.7 percent. The polling was way, way off.
  • The Nevada caucuses are a fairly new phenomenon. They were first held in 2008. That’s not a lot of history to go on. Iowans have been caucusing for generations; Nevadans, not so much. When you’re trying to identify likely caucus-goers, the first people you look for are people who have caucused before. In Nevada, there aren’t many of them.
  • Then there are the odd hours Nevadans work, especially in the major population centers like Las Vegas and Reno. Casinos are open all night. So are many restaurants. Pollsters who call during the day will miss the nine-to-five workers; pollsters who call later will miss the folks on the night shift. It’s too expensive for most pollsters to conduct polls both day and night.

He makes other points — including the unpredictability of caucuses in general, the unpredicted 2008 Democratic results, a rapidly growing Latino population that is hard to keep up with, the cell phone argument, and more — but I want the majority of today’s post to have words from the always reliable and barely plagiarist PPFA. Before turning to them, just note that Romero isn’t alone in his Nevada assessment. The liberal Huffington Post and conservative National Review agree, as do other outlets.

I fear that this is wishful thinking on the part of anti-Trumpers. (In fact, Lt. Governor Hutchison, who offered that “Who knows?” quote, is a Rubio supporter, so his motivations are dubious.) Even before South Carolina, Trump was up 20 points in the Nevada polls and is now coming off the second of back to back wins. We’ve seen a Trump tide rise across the country. He has turned out his voters in the last two states, winning a wide spectrum of ideologies and demographics in the process. There is no reason to still think (hope?) that pollsters are over-representing his supporters.

We also should consider some counterexamples to the arguments of Romero and others. Sure, the 2008 polls were off, but how about the more recent Republican caucuses — those of 2012? Here are its last two polls and results:

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Pretty accurate. How about the Democrats just three days ago?

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Accurate again.

Part of me wants to weigh more heavily that the only state Trump lost was also a caucus state, but here at PPFA we try to avoid wishful thinking. We should never confuse what we want to be true with the truth itself. I see no serious reason to get hopes up that Trump doesn’t have a full head of steam heading into Super Tuesday. Unfortunately, here on the east coast we won’t get results until midnight, so that’s a headline up to which I’ll have to wake.

The suspense, then, is again about second place. Just like South Carolina, as the February Nevada polls at the top of this column showed you, it could easily go to either Rubio or Cruz. They split the two surveys done since New Hampshire.

The arguments for Cruz: A slight edge in polling; winning Iowa showed strong caucus-ability; evangelical Ben “Walking Corpse” Carson voters could get wooed at the caucus sites; he’s completing a three-day “lightning tour.”

The arguments for Rubio: Second place in South Carolina provides momentum not charted in the pre-South Carolina polls; he’s not caught up in the Trump-Cruz mudslinging; he probably gained a couple percentage points after Bush’s withdrawal; he’s playing up his Nevada connections.

So I’ll take Rubio in second. Those last two Nevada polls were right after his New Hampshire disaster. South Carolina has stabilized the Rubio Campaign for the moment.

As for the fourth place “battle,” Kasich seemed to have the edge over Carson even before Bush dropped out, a development which benefits the Ohio Governor. Carson is coming across as a dead candidate walking these days, so I think he’ll lose some of his support when the caucuses talk it out.

Final (grudging) predictions:

  1. Trump
  2. Rubio
  3. Cruz
  4. Kasich
  5. Carson
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3 thoughts on “Nevada Caucuses (GOP): Predictable?

  1. So who’s idea was it to have a caucus in a state where a large part of the electorate works all day, and another large part sleeps all day? Looks to me like a plot to minimize participation.

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