Cross-posted at The Electoral Map
An ongoing battle between the Nevada GOP brass and a fierce faction of Ron Paul loyalists could have major consequences in November: If the rift isn’t healed, the Paul supporters look like they’re poised to cast their ballots for a Paul as a write-in, or support Libertarian candidate Bob Barr or even throw their vote to Barack Obama out of spite for McCain.
The sour relations began at the state GOP convention when Paul supporters assembled a clear majority in the run-up to the vote to send delegates to the convention. Paul had finished in second place in the caucus, ahead of McCain, and their people thought that they should be well-represented in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
But the heads of the Nevada Republican Party, who are McCain allies, used parliamentary tactics to stall a vote and consequently ran out the clock. They decided that a state GOP committee, and not county delegates, would decide who went to the convention. The Paul people filed suit and lost, and vow to take their grievances to the Republican National Committee.
Even if they win, which appears unlikely, the damage has been done. According to this TIME article, it appears that the Paul supporters would rather vote for a ham sandwich than McCain. It’s not clear how large their faction is, but if it’s large enough to shave two or three points off of McCain’s tally in the state, it means that Obama could win Nevada’s five electoral votes with a plurality.
Bill Clinton won Nevada in 1992 with only 37 percent thanks to independent Ross Perot picking off 26 percent.
Paul and Perot share many similarities. Besides the fact that they’re both fiery Texans with bold views, they both espouse a distrust for the federal government and both command a loyal following. They also seem to win support in similar geographical areas.
If you look at the maps below of Ron Paul donations and Ross Perot performance during the 1992 campaign, Paul and Perot had their best success in Western state and in Nevada in particular.
Nevada is a tough state to analyze because so many of its voters are new transplants. But as the state grows and changes, one thing remains constant: It has a robust libertarian streak. Nevada’s DNA is rooted in libertarianism, from the anti-government and pro-gun lifestyle of the range to the prostitution, gambling and hedonism of Las Vegas.
This is prime Paul territory, and those Paul supporter will vote. The question, For who?
Ron Paul Donation in 2008 Q4
Ross Perot Performance in 1992