There’s still a little more than six months until Nevada’s Democratic Caucus, but already candidates have crisscrossed the state drumming up support wherever they can. KUNR’s Paul Boger spoke with Megan Messerly, the lead 2020 reporter for the Nevada Independent, to get the latest on the campaigns and to find out what they must do to carry the Silver State.
"When former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed for Nevada to become an early nominating state, [it was] because of our diverse population," Messerly said. "The argument being that we're more reflective of the population of America as a whole compared to states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, where basically 90 percent of the population is white. We're much more diverse here, so Reid's argument was really that this is a good proving ground for candidates to show that they can appeal to America as a whole, instead of just Iowa and New Hampshire."
According to a recent analysis by FiveThirtyEight, the top 23 Democrats vying for their party's nomination for president have spent a total of 74 days campaigning in Nevada. In addition, many of those top candidates have started building substantial ground games, hiring staffers across the state.
So what does that mean? Which candidates are making headway in the Silver State?
That's hard to say because reliable polling in Nevada continues to lag behind the rest of the early nominating states. At this point, it appears that roughly a quarter to a third of voters in Nevada back former Vice President Joe Biden. The more progressive candidates, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are in second and third place respectively. Those numbers are similar to many national polls, and underline an ongoing argument within the party whether to nominate a moderate who can best President Trump in the general election or elect someone who will push for a more progressive agenda, like Medicare-for-all or the Green New Deal.
"When I talk to voters, that's something that they're thinking about," said Messerly. "Not only in terms of, 'What candidate do I like? Whose policy priorities appeal to me? But, do I think that this person can win?' A lot of people are thinking, 'I might like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who are a little more progressive, but do I think they can win? Do I think they can win a general election? Can they beat Donald Trump?' That is, I think, a consideration that's going into these decisions."