Two of Nevada’s premier political observers say they expect Hillary Clinton to win in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses — but not by nearly as much as she had earlier hoped.
The caucuses are set to start at 11 a.m. statewide including in three Carson City locations: Carson High School, Carson Middle School and Eagle Valley Middle School. The caucuses will award more than 12,000 precinct-level delegates on Saturday who will vote in their respective county conventions on April 2, choosing delegates to the May 14-15 state convention.
Both University of Nevada Political Science Chairman Eric Herzik and Truckee Meadows Community College Political Science Professor Fred Lokken say despite the enthusiasm for Sanders — especially among young people — Clinton has the stronger organization in Nevada.
Both said Sanders is making Clinton a better candidate.
But polls taken after New Hampshire show her double-digit lead has faded to just a couple of points in the most recent samplings.
“Sanders has certainly become a more credible candidate and challenger but I think that poll (a week ago) re-energized the Clinton Nevada effort,” Herzik said. “Clinton is taking it seriously.
“She has sharpened her message in the past couple of weeks, more fire and passion coming out of her camp and she needed that.”
Lokken said Clinton needed to get more serious in Nevada. He added Sanders’ candidacy is good for her and her campaign at this point: “If Sanders wasn’t in the race, nobody would be paying attention to the Democratic side.”
Herzik said Sanders also is pushing harder, seeing a chance to win in a state where he was a double-digit underdog before his close finish in Iowa and victory in New Hampshire.
Since neither professor expects the huge turnout party officials have been touting, the campaign organizations are going to be key.
“Sanders has one disadvantage in this: he doesn’t have a well established on the ground organization,” Herzik said.
While Clinton has been in Nevada since April, Sanders really didn’t have a Nevada organization until November and still doesn’t have the kind of organization she does.
Lokken said because of the stronger ground game, “Nevada is still Hillary’s to lose.”
“He had a great rally up at UNR; he’s running these ads but has no ground game up here,” Lokken said.
He said while Clinton supporters have been canvassing door-to-door including in the north, Sanders’ strategy has been to use mailers — “no walking.”
“I was told Bernie Sanders has really been relying heavily on Clark County,” Lokken said. “The thing is we see that as a mistake. Candidates need to be very, very active at least in Washoe County as well as Clark.”
He said about Clinton’s troops walking door to door, “I see that as remarkable. You don’t see that in caucuses.”
For today’s caucuses, Herzik said Sanders “has got to depend on all his very enthusiastic supporters to self-motivate and go to the caucuses.”
“Clinton has to bring her people to the caucuses,” Herzik said. “The Clinton people are far more pragmatic. It’s almost like a check-list.”
Lokken said Clinton is also “finally doing unto him, pulling up his voting issues.” He said for example Sanders’ support of racial issues has been uneven.
“I kind of feel we’ll see the similar turnout we did four years ago,” said Lokken.
But he said “there’s a lot of chatter about how the Latino population turned out for Clinton’s campaign.” He said that could make a significant difference if they turn out for the caucuses.
“It’ll be close but I think Clinton will win,” said Herzik.
“I would still expect a five point edge for Clinton at this point,” said Lokken.
If that happens and she wins big in South Carolina, he said it revitalizes her campaign going forward.
Today’s Democratic caucuses will be followed by the Republican caucuses on Tuesday evening.