How Will Presidential Candidates Fare In More Diverse, More Cynical Nevada?

Feb 12, 2016

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In the New Hampshire primary, we saw Bernie Sanders come out way on top, by even more than expected. But can he keep that momentum heading into South Carolina and then Nevada, where Hillary Clinton has had boots on the ground for a whole year? To dig into that question, our News Director Michelle Billman spoke with two local political scientists, Precious Hall and Fred Lokken who both teach at Truckee Meadows Community College.

Despite a significant win for Sanders in New Hampshire and his unexpectedly strong performance in Iowa, both TMCC experts say that Nevada will present the Vermont senator with the unique challenge of trying to engage with college students who aren't as politically energetic as their Eastern peers.

Precious Hall adds that timing is everything.

"Because the Democratic caucus is on a Saturday, Bernie Sanders is going to have to figure out how to get students to get up and get out and participate in this process," Hall says. "This is going to be a different beast."

Sanders will also have to compete with Clinton's robust campaign efforts in Nevada, which have included volunteers knocking on quite a few doors on her behalf.

"She learned a great deal from her defeat to Barack Obama in 2008," says Fred Lokken. "She has copied many of the successful strategies of Obama and made it her campaign for 2016." 

On the Republican side, the race remains much more muddled after New Hampshire. 

"This primary is one of the primaries, just in general, where you can be a Republican candidate and come in first, second, third, or fourth place, and everyone can say it's a win," explains Hall. "I think New Hampshire shows that anything can happen at this point in the Republican party."

Hall says that all of the candidates now have their eyes on South Carolina's primary. With Nevada's Republican caucus following just a few days later on February 23, that doesn't leave much time for building up their ground games in the Silver State, which Lokken says is critical.

"Donald Trump, who I think could probably do well in every primary state, but most of the states are caucus states, needs to make a significant change going forward to spend more money and actually get ground game strategies going," Lokken says. "If he doesn't do that, he could see lots of 'Iowas' in his future."