The 2020 general election is officially less than a year away, but with Nevada among the first states in the nation to vote next year, candidates for the country's top job have been focusing heavily on the Silver State for several months. KUNR's Paul Boger spoke to Fred Lokken, a political scientist with Truckee Meadows Community College, about where we are in the election process and what it all means for voters in Nevada.
Among the biggest changes in Nevada politics is the state's growing influence in the nomination process by becoming an early nominating state.
"We didn't see any of the candidates, and now we see them all repeatedly, and we've become this very important early state in the primary/caucus season. We have been this bellwether state in terms of battles over the U.S. Senate," Lokken said. "We had Harry Reid in this, first, minority, then majority, then minority leader role in the United States Senate, all of which just sort of allowed Nevada to flower as this relevant Western voice."
However, that influence comes with a cost. According to analysis by The Nevada Independent, presidential candidates have so far held nearly 300 campaign events across the Silver State. Lokken says the large field of candidates may be causing problems for voters.
"We are so far away from decision-making, we are so far away from the November 2020 campaign, that I think this is going to create problems for the party, not solve them," he said. "We want to live the mythology of democracy but this has been, at best, organized chaos so far. But it's played out in Nevada as a result because, since we are one of the first four, we are seeing these candidates come in fairly large numbers and in repetitive visits."
Most of that campaigning has taken place on the Democratic side of the aisle. Earlier this year, the Nevada Republican Party canceled their caucus earlier this year, throwing the party's support behind President Trump. Lokken says the move may end up alienating GOP voters.
"I think the real political motivation was to disenfranchise any effort that would challenge the president's nomination for a second round," Lokken said. "It's disingenuous in the party process, and I think there are a number of Republicans who don't agree with the decision of the state party on this issue, but the state party has lost a lot of its Republican base. It's living over in the nonpartisan. Anybody who is a moderate is no longer welcome in the state Republican Party, and so has left the party. So, [they're] already disenfranchised because [they] would prefer to be seen as a Republican, they want to vote a more moderate brand, so it's hard on those voters."