Though it’s one of the first states to hold a presidential nominating contest, Nevada’s outsized role in presidential politics isn’t reflected by the number of candidate visits to the state. By my count (and with the help of my former AP colleague Michelle Rindels) there’s only been 55 presidential candidate visits to Nevada in 2015. While that seems large, candidates made more (59) trips to Iowa and New Hampshire (71) in September and October alone, according to the National Journal’s 2016 Travel Tracker.
But there is reason for optimism – as the caucus moves closer, candidates (including Ben Carson) are promising to spend more time in the state. Here’s three quick takeaways from ten months of collected data on Nevada presidential visits:
Rubio, Bush top visits:
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Rubio & Bush campaigns are looking to Nevada as a key linchpin for their presidential hopes. Rubio, with eight visits (including a stop in rural Yerington), has rolled out a large number of state-level backers including Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison and state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson.
Bush, with seven trips to Nevada so far, also isn’t lacking for endorsements. Senator Dean Heller, Congressman Mark Amodei and a host of other state leaders have endorsed Bush, who has mainly confined his trips to town halls in Las Vegas and Reno.
Rand Paul has traveled to further corners of the state than all other candidates during his campaign visits in Nevada, including stops in rural Elko, Pahrump and Mesquite.
As for Democrats, Bernie Sanders leads the pack with five visits so far to Hillary Clinton’s four and Martin O’Malley’s three.
Campaign trips don’t automatically translate to success in polls:
Presidential polling in Nevada is unfortunately sparse, but a recent CNN poll shows that candidate visits don’t necessarily translate to poll popularity. Donald Trump takes a 38 percent hold with likely Republican caucus goers despite a mere three trips to the state – Rubio (7 percent) and Bush (6 percent) lag behind in comparison.
As for Democrats, the gap between visits and poll numbers is even larger- more than half of likely caucus goers polled by CNN said they’d support Clinton, with around 34 percent supportive of Sanders.
It’s important to remember that the actual caucus dates are months away, and polls are by their nature mercurial. Plus, Nevada’s infamously confusing caucus system means that candidates with strong in-state organizations can rise above seemingly low poll numbers.
Who hasn’t appeared (yet):
For candidates with sagging national poll numbers, Nevada isn’t the most attractive location to visit. Of the ten Republicans featured during the Wednesday CNBC debate, only Chris Christie has yet to make a stop in Nevada. Long shot Republican candidates Bobby Jindal, Lindsay Graham and George Pataki and Democrat Larry Lessig have yet to visit the state.
Notes: Multi-day visits are counted separately. I count debate appearances as candidate trips. If there’s any errors or issues with the data, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.