A lot of folks want to blame Romney’s loss in Nevada on voter registration; pointing to the Democrats’ well-publicized registration efforts over the three-month period leading up to this year’s general election.
Alas, the numbers just don’t back that up. Registration simply was NOT the GOP’s problem. Consider the following:
At the close of registration in 2008 in Nevada, there were approximately 531,000 “active” registered Democrats. At the close of registration this year, there were approximately 527,000 “active” registered Democrats.
So over a period of four years, with a Democrat in the White House and with the benefit of the vaunted “Reid Machine,” the number of active registered Democrats in Nevada shrunk by 4,000.
Meanwhile, at the close of registration in 2008, there were about 431,000 “active” registered Republicans in Nevada. At the close of registration this year, after supposedly being “swamped” by the Democrat voter registration effort, Republicans had about 437,000 “active” registered voters. An increase of about 6,000.
So over a four year period, Democrats lost 4,000 voters and Republicans increased their number by 6,000…yet supposedly the Democrats are this huge registration colossus and Republicans were a colossal failure? On what planet?
Now let’s look at the actual voting numbers:
In 2008, Obama got 533,000 votes in Nevada. In 2012, he got approximately 529,000. So in other words, he got about 4,000 fewer votes after losing about 4,000 “active” registered Democrat voters.
Meanwhile, John McCain chalked up about 413,000 votes in Nevada in 2008 while Mitt Romney in 2012 got about 463,000 votes. In other words, despite gaining just 6,000 additional GOP “active” registered voters, the GOP candidate got an additional 50,000 votes!
Yet he still lost. How can that be?
Glad you asked.
At the close of registration in 2008, there were approximately 246,000 “Other” registered voters; voters registered as either non-partisan or with a third party, such as the Libertarian Party or the Independent American Party. And at the close of registration in 2012, there were about 294,000 “Other” registered voters.
While the vaunted Democrat “Reid Machine” was losing 4,000 registered Democrats and the “Sandoval Machine” was adding 6,000 registered Republicans, the “No Machine” of “Other” registered voters increased their number by some 48,000?
Holy crappoli, Batman!
So as you can now clearly see, the problem for Republicans wasn’t that they sucked at voter registration; the problem was Republicans failed to sufficiently win over Nevada’s large and growing “Other” voters. And I’ll argue that the reason isn’t because the GOP isn’t “moderate” enough here, but because it isn’t conservative enough. Consider…
In the only other statewide partisan race on the ballot in Nevada this year, Democrat Shelley Berkley got just under 45% of the vote, while Republican Dean Heller got just over 45% of the vote. So where did the other approximately 10% of voters go?
Well, about 45,000 of them opted to vote for “None of the Above” – and Jon Ralston reports some 19,000 voters who voted for a presidential candidate simply left the Senate race blank on their ballots. For those voters, we can’t assume any kind of philosophical preference; however…
Independent American Party candidate David Lory Vanderbeek pulled in over 48,000 votes in that race.
While Heller and Berkley, according to Open Secrets, raised about $9 million each for this race, this Vanderbeek guy apparently didn’t even raise enough money to be required to fill out an FEC report!
And yet some 48,000 Nevada voters voted for him. Why?
Well, if you want to know where Mr. Vanderbeek is philosophically, this short sentence I pulled from his website should tell you all you need to know: “In many respects, if you want to know what I will do if elected, just look at the positions of Ron Paul.”
In other words, rock solid limited-government conservative.
So if Dean Heller had lost this race, it wouldn’t have been because he was too conservative; it would have been because he was perceived as being too MODERATE. Just look at the numbers. If there wasn’t a conservative alternative in this race Heller would have crushed Berkley. Instead, he pulled it out by the skin of his teeth.
The bottom line is this: The GOP’s problem in Nevada isn’t registration. It’s that it stands for nothing in the eyes of its conservative base. The GOP has nominated moderates in McCain and Romney and lost Nevada both times.
And while it’s true that Gov. Brian Sandoval is a moderate, he falsely sold himself to the electorate two years ago as a conservative. It was a classic bait-and-switch campaign that fooled conservative Republicans. Had he run as the moderate he is, he’d have never gotten the Republican nomination.
As for Heller, he’s been voting solidly like a conservative but ran a moderate, middle-of-the-road, can’t-we-all-just-get-along campaign…and it almost cost him.