The battle for a victory in the Nevada caucuses is heating up between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
On the heels of Cruz’s endorsement by Nevada attorney general and tea-party darling Adam Laxalt, Rubio’s team is wasting no time touting the support of its own statewide surrogate, Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison. Hutchison, Nevada’s most high-profile Mormon, has helped Rubio sew up backers among that key demographic.
Today, National Review has learned from a Rubio staffer, Hutchison will blast out a fundraising appeal to his personal contacts, from former business partners to fellow church members. In his e-mail, the lieutenant governor emphasizes the area in which the Rubio team feels they’ve outworked Cruz: plain, old-fashioned organization.
“We are running the most well-oiled volunteer driven ground game of any campaign in Nevada,” Hutchison writes. “We were the first campaign to begin caucus trainings and have held nearly 75 to date. We are knocking doors and calling potential caucus goers every day to lock in support.”
“On Tuesday, we had our most active weekday of the campaign yet with over 60 people making calls for the campaign,” the lieutenant governor continues. “The infrastructure is now in place for Marco to win the caucuses. . . . This is why I am asking you personally, as a friend, and someone I have come to count on, to contribute to his campaign before the end of the month. A contribution right now may make all the difference between victory and second place.”
That Rubio’s organizational strength — rather than the Florida senator’s vision as a candidate — is the heart of Hutchison’s pitch to donors is a testament to the realities of the Silver State’s political landscape. Voter turnout has been abysmally low in Nevada the last two election cycles — a mere 32,894 made it to the caucuses in 2012 — meaning ground games matter far more than the fanfare that typically captivates primary voters in other states.
Hutchison makes no mention of Cruz or any other challenger, but in a nod to the diverse Nevada electorate, which has been characterized as everything from libertarian to grassroots-conservative, he kicks off his note with a reminder of Rubio’s broad-based appeal.
“With Marco as the nominee, Republicans have the first chance in a long time to expand their message to states and communities that have been prone to tune us out,” he writes.
Now that Laxalt and Hutchison have both placed their bets, Governor Brian Sandoval remains the last coveted Nevada endorser. Sandoval, whose 2014 reelection bid was run by Rubio’s current consultant, Mike Slanker, has given little hint as to whom he’ll throw his weight behind, if he decides to get in the race at all.