Nevada holds the country's fourth nominating contest -- after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- which has given it an outsized role in choosing each party's presidential nominee in the past. But since 2008 the state has held caucuses instead of primaries, which generally favor candidates with the the most passionate voters. That gives someone like Paul, with his fervent activist following, a built-in advantage.
Paul's dad, Ron Paul, showed just how much strong grassroots support matters in the state during the 2008 and 2012 elections, as The Post’s Katie Zezima reported in April:
“Nevada Republicans long generally picked a presidential favorite via primaries. In 2008, they held caucuses instead. Many Ron Paul voters showed up that day...[and] pulled a repeat performance in 2012. Even though Mitt Romney overwhelmingly won the Nevada caucuses, Paul -- who finished third -- was able to game the system at the convention, and won almost all of the state's delegates to the national GOP convention in Tampa.
And, as Katie writes, now Rand Paul stands to gain from the path laid by the elder Paul:
The Kentucky Republican is tapping into his father's infrastructure in the state, hoping to harness its supporters as he draws in others who may not have been affiliated with his campaign. Paul is trying to appeal to the state's libertarian bent, telling an audience in Las Vegas this month that he is ‘unafraid to challenge the status quo’ and railing against excessive government regulation.”
Underlying the call for a primary election is fear among Nevada's Republican leaders that Paul's popularity among likely caucusgoers could discourage other candidates from competing aggressively in the state. A primary would at least theoretically increase voter turnout and expand the sample of Republican voters who have a voice in the process.
It's unclear if the preservation of the caucuses will have any influence on the overall plans of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who have strong appeal among Hispanic voters and have been seen as major potential threats in Nevada.
Paul, for his part, on Tuesday said via Twitter that he looks forward to the state's caucus.