Nevada takes prominent role in national politics | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada takes prominent role in national politics

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

With the highest office in the country at stake, Nevadans’ voices may ring through the national discourse.

“It’s very likely that Nevada could have a huge impact on the 2008 presidential election,” said Dr. Bob Morin, political science instructor at Western Nevada Community College. “Although we are a small state with only five electoral votes, that’s enough to turn an election.”

Seeing Nevada as a battleground state that could determine the next president, the Democratic National Committee moved its Nevada caucus up, meaning Nevadans will get one of the first chances to pick a candidate.

Part of the importance is because of the race itself. It’s the first in 56 years without an incumbent president or vice president in the race. This means that the nominations in both parties are wide open.

Nevada will hold the second Democratic caucus of the 2008 election. Iowa holds the first caucus and New Hampshire holds the first primary election. With a full slate of candidates vying for the party’s nomination, strong showings in early primaries and caucuses helps candidates with exposure and fundraising.

“The Democratic Party sees us as a competitive state with a significant minority population that isn’t represented in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Morin said.

Large minority populations in many Western states are expected to be an important group needed to win the presidency.

Bill Eubank, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno, said, “The Democratic Party wants to get the Western region much more involved in the representative part of delegate selection. Being heard early has become so important that California and New York are trying to move up their primary elections.”

The California Senate approved a bill Tuesday that, if passed, would move the state’s primary election from mid-June to the first Tuesday in February beginning in 2008.

On Wednesday, Nevadans will have the first opportunity to question candidates on issues important to Western states – including water usage, rapid growth and the nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain – it will mean increased attention both from candidates and from national media outlets.

“This will benefit Nevada in two ways. First, more people will see who we are and where we are, increasing our profile. Second, we will get the kind of media coverage that we don’t usually see,” Morin said.

Morin said the switch has potential benefits for several candidates, but the largest advantage is getting the West more involved in the political arena.

“This highlights the Western states, which might inadvertently benefit Gov. Bill Richardson because he is the governor of a Western state,” Morin said.

Richardson recently established a campaign office in Las Vegas and plans to open one in Reno later this month.

“Every candidate is going to talk about the importance of Nevada in this campaign, but actions speak louder than words,” Richardson said. “Sen. (Harry) Reid and I worked with other Western leaders for years to schedule an early Western primary, and I am proud of our success. Nevada is a priority for me, which is why I was the first candidate to put a campaign staff on the ground across the state. It’s why I was the first to commit to the upcoming forums in Carson City and Las Vegas and why I pledged to campaign in every county.”

But, said Andrew Pederson, director of media relations for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Youth Voice Inc., that opportunity also means Nevadans should carefully consider their decision about who they want as their candidates.

“Being the second caucus means Nevadans can have their issues addressed, but voters have a responsibility to do their homework,” Pederson said. “Check the candidates’ voting history and how they might align with your personal political beliefs and make an informed decision.”

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.