OK, I chose that title for sensationalism, but here's what I mean:
In the past few weeks, I've seen reports that candidates are saying they'd "boycott" or "not participate in" the Nevada GOP precinct meetings, AKA caucuses, if the date were moved into January. I've asked what this means, and no one could give me an answer other than "It means they won't participate."
The source of my confusion is that I attended the 2008 caucus, and helped with the 2010 caucuses for my area of the county. I know how they worked then, and I also got the skinny on how they're going to work in 2012. For your edification and amusement, I hereby present
The 2012 Nevada Caucus Primer*
- The precinct meetings are designed for party organization.
- The chief responsibility of the precinct meeting is to select delegates to its county convention. In Presidential election years, there is also a "straw" or preference poll for Presidential candidate. More on this later.
- The county conventions in turn select delegates to the state convention, which selects delegates to the Republican National Convention. A second duty of the state convention is to establish or modify platform planks for the Nevada Republican Party.
- The National Convention, of course, nominates the Republican candidate for President.
In 2012, the rules are a bit different. Remember that preference poll I mentioned? Let's say the results, statewide, were something like Cain 35%, Romney 25%, Paul 15%, and the rest split the remaining 25% (see, I can count). In the first round of voting at the National Convention, Nevada's delegates will be divided proportionately: 35% will vote for Cain, 25% for Romney, 15% for Paul, etc. After the first round, the delegation is no longer bound and the delegates may vote however they choose.
So you see why I am mystified by what the candidates mean by threatening not to participate in our caucuses. They already do not participate, except as names on a sheet of paper in an informal poll. What do they propose to do, demand their names be taken off the sheets of paper? All that would do is ensure they get no votes in the first round of voting at the Republican National Convention. I don't see them intentionally doing anything that would lead to that result.
All this is, of course, likely academic. The Nevada GOP will most likely set a February date for the "caucuses", according to this AP story. I plan to participate again this cycle, and this time around I will try to be selected as a delegate to the Washoe County Convention. I believe it would at least be a good learning experience.
*Source for the information not in italics is Phyllis Westrup, Secretary of the Washoe County Republican Central Committee.