Nevada caucuses see record Democratic, Republican turnout |

Nevada caucuses see record Democratic, Republican turnout

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Enthusiastic voters showed up in record numbers for Saturday’s presidential caucuses in Nevada, surprising Democratic and Republican organizers who anticipated lower turnouts instead of overflow crowds.

About 116,000 Democrats, 28 percent of all Nevada’s registered Democrats, showed up at 520 precincts around the state. The previous record for a Democratic caucus was when nearly 9,000 voters turned out for the 2004 presidential race.

More than 44,000 Republicans, 11 percent of registered GOP voters, were on hand at 113 precincts. The most the Nevada GOP had drawn to a presidential caucus before was 2,000 to 3,000 voters, according to party officials.

“It’s off the charts,” said Jill Derby, the state Democratic Party chairwoman. “There were some bumps in the road. We ran out of forms, the lines were too long and the rooms were too small. But, hey, that’s good news.”

Democratic Party organizers had figured 40,000 to just over 70,000 people would attend the caucuses. On Friday, they cautiously upped their low turnout estimate to about 50,000.

“We were sitting around last night and had a good-natured bet, and the top bet was a turnout of 72,000,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said. “So we blew out every expectation.”

“It’s more than 10 times the number of people we had in 2004, and way more than double the number of people we expected to have today,” Searer said.

Zack Moyle, executive director of the state Republican Party, said GOP organizers figured on 25,000 to 40,000 caucus-goers at most.

“I’m not going to lie to you. There were days we were praying to get to that 25,000 number,” Moyle said. “We dwarfed any of our previous numbers, that’s for sure.”

“Overwhelming might be a good word,” Moyle said of the roughly 43,000 participants at the GOP caucuses. “The bottom line is that we easily exceeded our expectations and we’re absolutely thrilled.”

Democrats’ interest grew as major candidates such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won with 51 percent of the vote, and Barack Obama, who got 45 percent, and their surrogates, including former President Bill Clinton, toured all corners of the state.

Republican involvement also was helped by the Democratic candidates’ appearances. The only major Republican candidate to spend much time in Nevada was Mitt Romney, and that paid off as he trounced all other GOP contenders, getting 52 percent in precinct straw polls.

“I said from the get-go that the Democrats being here does not hurt us,” Moyle said. “If anything, it helps us, because people see them in their backyards and they get fired up and give us a call and say, ‘What can I do?'”

“The average Republican doesn’t like seeing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on TV and that turns them out as well. Absolutely, that’s part of it.”

“That being said, Romney won this state because he spent the most time here. It just boils down to the state of Nevada and its voters really paying attention to the people who pay attention to us.”

Searer said that with the big Democratic turnout “hopefully this solidifies our position as an early caucus state.”

“We were lathered with candidate attention over the past week, and Nevada has never experienced anything like this before,” Searer said. “So of course we’re going to respond in kind.”

“It’s thrilling because a lot of people didn’t take the Nevada caucuses seriously. They didn’t think Nevadans would show up for the caucuses and this just goes to show that Nevadans deserve the spot we have on the national map.”

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